15 May 2019

Tourism industry urged to help wipe out visitors' carbon footprint

6:01 am on 15 May 2019

The tourism industry hopes to earn $50 billion and become more sustainable by 2025 but industry heads acknowledge that may be difficult.

A hiking girl in new zealand

Photo: 123rf.com

The target was released yesterday in the industry's new strategy for the future, which revealed at TRENZ, the country's biggest annual tourism showcase in Rotorua.

The industry committed to measuring and reducing carbon usage, setting it as one of its new priorities.

But how can carbon be reduced as more visitors continue to arrive by air?

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts was in no doubt the industry faced a major hurdle as it tried to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"In terms of where New Zealand sits on the globe, we can't do anything about that so yes, most of our visitors are travelling a large distance to get here.

"That's just the reality of it, so we can do what we can and in time technology may provide the answer in that space."

The number of tourists coming in from overseas has been rising sharply for several years - increasing by close to 40 percent since 2014 - although that level of growth has eased off in the last 18 months.

The industry is now focused on what it calls sustainable growth and acknowledges that greenhouse gas emissions are a risk as visitors may cut back travel to reduce their own carbon footprint.

It now has a list of tasks it wants to tackle over the next three years - measuring and managing carbon use is one of them.

Mr Roberts had a simple message: "We're saying to every individual business, 'You become carbon zero, carbon neutral, and then you've played your part.'

"Just do what you can and that's your contribution to managing carbon."

Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said setting up joint tourism-conservation projects was a way of mitigating the carbon footprint of travellers.

Some businesses in the area helped tourists plant trees or engage with wildlife protection as part of their offerings, Ms Dunne said.

"They've travelled here and maybe they have caused some carbon footprint damage, but they have been able to participate in activities that have helped to give back."

Christchurch Airport head Malcolm Johns said carbon emissions had to come down.

"There's a saying that if everybody sweeps their own front yard, the world will be clean. So, our focus has been how do we sweep our own front yard first?

"We've decided that being part of an industry that has a large carbon footprint, decarbonisation would be our number one priority."

In less than five years, the airport had cut its own direct emissions by 90 percent by using electric vehicles and an underground aquifer to regulate the temperature of buildings.

But Mr Johns said there was still plenty of work to do.

The government introduced its climate change response bill to parliament last week, setting a new target to reduce all greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050.

Mr Roberts was not worried.

"Well the carbon bill, it's tool is using carbon credits so those businesses who are emitting carbon will have to meet the cost of that and having an efficient carbon trading scheme means that those costs will go back onto businesses."

"I don't see any particular impact on tourism businesses."

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