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China’s Sustainable Travel Alliance
Sep 4, 2020 – WWF, in cooperation with relevant players in the travel and tourism industry and other civil society actors, has launched the Sustainable Travel Alliance online (可持续旅行联盟), in which over 21 members have made a commitment to fighting the illegal wildlife trade, and reducing plastic and food waste in the tourism sector.
Travelling can expose people to amazing natural and human phenomena around the world; from massive animal migrations across African savannas, to colourful coral reefs in the Pacific, to temples in Southeast Asia. However, unsustainable tourism and the consumption patterns of travellers are irreversibly damaging some of the world’s key eco-systems necessary for biodiversity and human survival.
Habitat destruction, illegal poaching driven by the wildlife trade, and unsustainable exploitation and consumption of our natural resources are threatening global biodiversity. Millions of species are now endangered and are at risk of going extinct in the next 10 years. WWF estimates that about 20,000 African elephants are poached every year for their ivory; nearly 10,000 African rhinos have been poached over the last 10 years; wild tiger populations have declined by 97% over the past 100 years, leaving only 3,900 individuals; and more than half a million pangolins were trafficked globally between 2016 and 2019. Meanwhile, over one-third of plastic waste is estimated to have entered nature as land, freshwater or marine pollution, and one-third of global food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted every year while over 820 million people remain hungry.
Recognizing that preventing further ecological damage requires a consolidated response, WWF has launched the Sustainable Travel Alliance with key associations and companies in the travel and tourism sector to commit to actively protect the environment and work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Alliance was launched together with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), Trip.com, CAISSA Tourism, Vinetree Tourism, China Standard Conformity Assessment Co. Ltd. and other leading players in the travel and tourism industry.
“Wild animals who do not have a concept of national borders and do not carry passports don’t belong to any one country but are part of the rich natural heritage of the world,” said Zhou Fei, Chief Program Officer of WWF-China. “It is our hope that the collective and strong message sent by the Sustainable Travel Alliance will lead to a public refusal to engage in wildlife consumption or use products made from endangered species. The Alliance can help us communicate the importance of wildlife protection, reducing disposable plastic use, and cutting food waste.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous negative impact on the tourism industry, but it presents us with new opportunities to improve our sector,” said Sun Guizhen, Secretary-General of the China Association of Travel Services. “We believe that Chinese Tourism has the potential to recover in a way that is more sustainable and in harmony with nature, balancing the relationship between humans and wildlife. We are pleased to launch this Sustainable Travel Alliance together with WWF China and other leading tourism companies, and call for more companies to join our coalition.”
“Wild animals and biodiversity are essential for healthy, functioning ecosystems,” said Guo Lixin, Vice Secretary-General of the China Wildlife Conservation Association. “We must ensure that the development of the tourism industry is compatible with healthy ecosystems in order to ensure our survival.”
“All sectors must operate more sustainably to mitigate the harmful elements of global population growth, but tourism needs especially to operate more sustainably due to its diverse and substantial environmental and social impacts,” says Randy Durband, CEO of the GSTC.
“The travel industry is the third-largest industry in the world, employing about one in every ten people,” added James Sano, Vice-President for Travel and Conservation for WWF US. “Biodiversity underpins the very foundation of our societies, economies, food systems, and cultures. Without it, there is no travel industry, and that is why a partnership like the Sustainable Travel Alliance is so important.”
“The issues of plastic pollution, food waste, and the illegal wildlife trade are all very much linked to tourism,” said Cristianne Close, Global Market Practice Lead for WWF International. “In this unique moment, when a global pandemic is challenging all of the assumptions about how our economies and societies function, we have a chance to shift our practices and create the changes that we want to see in the travel and other industries. We should seize this opportunity to achieve a much brighter vision for sustainable tourism development around the world.”
The Sustainable Travel Alliance will keep engaging more companies in the travel and tourism industry to practice corporate social responsibility, and help them realize that sustainable tourism is not only compatible with the growth of the industry, but necessary for its continued survival. The Alliance will help influence industry partners and travelers, educating them about wildlife protection, and food waste and plastic pollution reduction. Only by taking both tourism and environment conservation into consideration at the same time can the travel industry benefit social and cultural development and sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and nature.