Travellers may have little say on how climate crisis affects the places they visit and love, but they could play a more prominent role in helping them recover from environmental calamities if a bold idea by Jamaica’s tourism minister takes hold.
Edmund Bartlett has proposed the establishment of tourism “environmental fund” paid into by travellers in individual destinations with the proceeds earmarked specifically for recovery and resiliency in the face of ever-increasing weather events like hurricanes, drought, coastal erosion, or even human degradation.
And while some proponents believe that travellers “should” pay, Bartlett says any such fund would be strictly voluntary and at the district of the donor. And it would occur at “point of contact,” not as an add-on during the booking process or upon arrival.
Speaking at the recent Caribbean Travel Marketplace in Barbados, Bartlett called the climate crisis the “elephant in the room” for many countries in the tourism-dependent region, namely if tourists can’t or won’t go to a destination – or it can’t accommodate them because of, for example, a hurricane – then an island’s entire economy could virtually shut down.
And while the Caribbean is a highly vulnerable region, the “environmental fund” is a global initiative being championed by the Bartlett-led Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, founded in 2018.
In an interview with Travel Industry Today, Bartlett said the fund was “more than an idea,” and had been recently discussed with tourism partners in the Middle East.
He said it would next be raised at a G20 conference on sustainability.
Acknowledging that the management of such a fund could easily get bogged down at the international level, he envisions travellers being invited to participate locally, every time they “have a cup of tea or glass of milk.”
“What we want,” he said, “is an understanding among the tourist customer to take a personal responsibility for managing a donation to enable planet change ambition that will take you to, not net zero, but net possibility.”
He added that the fund is “strong idea that is born of your own commitment to a cause. It’s not about being induced by somebody – not a supplier saying to somebody, ‘do you care to?’ You will walk in and by virtue of your own consumption habit leave something behind.”
Without “inducement,” Bartlett said education would be the key to success of the fund, including partnerships with large and small tourism companies to spread the word.
“You don’t want a law (or) a set of international rules to govern it,” he continued. “What you want is an internal sense of doing something to reduce your carbon footprint.”
CHTA president Nicola Madden-Greig believes the fund would be a hit. “I think there are persons out there who would do that… People across the world who would want to contribute,” she said.
The fund would ultimately guarantee a resource for the recipient destination – “where the visitor actually goes and does the damage to nature and… benefits from trees being cut down, so new trees can be planted; and utilizes the sanitation system, and so on,” said Bartlett. “What we’re talking about is, ‘I have a footprint and I pay for it.’ And what I’m paying for is what I can afford and what I can voluntarily do. But I must do something!”
“My take on it,” Bartlett concluded, “is tourism must take the responsibility (to lead the fight against climate change), not (leave it) to someone else. It’s a recognition by all of us that there would be no tourism if we don’t take responsibility. It would not exist… if climate change overtakes us, and the beaches are gone.
“The fund is a tourism response to the need for climate management and to provide the resources to countries mitigate, manage and recover from these disruptions.”
First published at Travel Industry Today