Sustainable tourism destinations are receiving European funds to improve environmental performance as a competitive advantage.

The public entities managing Next Generation EU funds for the tourism sector are giving priority to projects focused on improving sustainability and environmental impact management, particularly in Spain.

Focus on sustainable and digital tourism

The sustainable tourist destination program 2021-2023 is a mechanism set up between the Government of Spain and the European Commission to support tourist destinations in their transformation towards environmental, socio-economic and territorial sustainability, and to help them develop resilience strategies against new sector challenges, such as climate change, excess tourism demand or health and safety crises.

The program is expected to improve the competitiveness of tourism destinations, thanks to climate change prevention and mitigation actions and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, among other things.

Sustainability, digitization and mobility

ClimateTrade regularly participates in international events on sustainability, such as the Leadership Summit on Mobility Sustainability and Digitization that took place in Seville in November 2021. There, the key aspects of sustainable tourism management were discussed between leading operators.

The main themes discussed at these events revolve around the policies, best practices and management tools for executives and operational, financial and marketing managers. The generally accepted roadmap starts with the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions, then their reduction as much as possible, and finally the offset of emissions that cannot be abated. Offsetting emissions also contributes directly to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), since mitigation projects support local communities as part of the positive impact of their actions.

Another key aspect of sustainability in tourism is mobility and transportation: destinations should focus on the most polluting forms of travel, such as planes, combustion vehicles, buses and ferries. There is some good news in this area, as vehicles with a lower environmental impact come to market – electric cars, for instance.

Finally, the trend towards digital management of tourist destinations and their environmental sustainability brings clear benefits for all those involved in the tourist experience:

  • Visualisation and awareness of environmental data and impacts thanks to transparent digital portals
  • Increased access to information that generates trust, such as flight, car and bus carbon footprint calculation methodology 
  • Ability to identify which operators in the ecosystem have a neutral or positive impact, or are reducing their negative impact, for instance by voluntarily offsetting the carbon footprint of other operators or travelers
  • Access to methodology and tools for carbon calculation and impact assessment for the entities managing tourist destinations

The sustainable tourism trend is strong: on top of these efforts by public entities to make destinations more sustainable, business travel agencies have also started their journey towards better environmental practices, particularly in their B2B services. For example, the spanish travel agency association GEBTA recently signed an agreement with ClimateTrade to facilitate CO2 offsetting for the business trips organized by its members.

Environmental impact monitoring and transparency

Since sustainability is now a force for tourism, it is important to highlight how impact is measured and communicated to tourists, operators and those who manage tourist destinations. Solutions that allow easy visualization, such as digital transparency portals or dashboards, are playing an important role in this, displaying real-time and historical information.

It will also be crucial to manage tourists’ user experience and perception of the destination’s sustainability, since this is becoming a key aspect of competitiveness in the comparison between different potential holiday spots.

ClimateTrade’s digital solutions for sustainable tourism

In the near future, tourist destinations will be compared, amongst other criteria, based on the carbon footprint generated by tourists and operators during stays, similarly to what is happening in other sectors and services. Concretely, CO2 emissions and environmental footprint will directly influence purchasing habits. We have already talked about the need for products and services to become carbon-neutral, but making this a reality is not easy – that’s also true about tourism.

It is necessary to calculate carbon footprint automatically, and to have a reliable platform to give clients complete visibility over where and how carbon credits are generated. ClimateTrade supports companies in meeting their sustainability and carbon offsetting commitments, strengthening their corporate social responsibility strategy. Our innovative digital solutions, including the ClimateTrade API, have been implemented in various companies from the tourism sector, such as Iberia or Melia Hotels.

Check out our case studies:

At the end of 2021, we launched the ClimateTrade Widget, which presents similar functionalities, but with an even easier integration process, making it perfect for SMEs and organizations that lack IT resources. The ClimateTrade API and Widget give clients information about the carbon footprint of their purchases and allow them to invest in sustainable projects to offset it.

ClimateTrade recognized by the UN World Tourism Organization 

Tourism can help to accelerate decarbonization goals with the help of companies like ClimateTrade, which in 2021 won the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) SDG startup competition for SDG 13 (Climate Action).

Natalia Bayona, UNWTO Director of Innovation, Education and Investments, commented on the competition: “Startups allow society to benefit from new advances in less time, and connecting their projects with potential partners and public and private sector investors helps to ensure their implementation. This flow of knowledge and investment is a novel paradigm to introduce cutting-edge technologies in tourism, for countries as well as corporations.”

The UNWTO offers an online showcase for the best emerging companies within the global tourism innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, based on its mission to promote sustainable, accessible and inclusive tourism, as well as innovation and digital transformation as a management priority.

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Article written by Francisco Martín, Head of Engineering and International Key Accounts Manager at ClimateTrade.