Sustainability in Travel 2021: Quantifying Tourism Emissions for Destinations

by Varsha Arora + Skift Team - Jun 2021

Skift Research Take

Tourism is often assumed to be a ‘low Impact and non-consumptive development option,’ primarily because to date greenhouse gas emissions from tourism at a destination level are largely unaccounted for. Destinations have started taking sustainability seriously with growing media pressure and traveler awareness, but have a long way to go to make significant reductions in emissions long-term.

Report Overview

In the past few years, the problems surrounding tourism have intensified at major destinations around the world. The number of tourists was growing at a fast pace until 2019. In line with this, greenhouse gas emissions from tourism have also increased.

In 2019, tourism contributed about 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions. There are growing pressures on the tourism industry to reduce this. In this report we investigate the status of carbon reporting in the tourism industry. Skift research interviewed three senior industry professionals to understand the status quo of data collection and assimilation with respect to carbon emissions. 

Skift Research also attempted to quantify domestic and international tourism emissions for select destinations based on publicly available data. The results are startling, with tourism emissions contributing as much as 20-30% of total emissions in countries like Thailand, Switzerland, and United Arab Emirates.  

This, along with the fact that there is no standard and transparent carbon reporting being done, leaves us worried that the industry as a whole is lacking momentum to reduce carbon emissions.

What You'll Learn From This Report

  • The global carbon footprint of tourism
  • Carbon emissions attributable to different parts of the tourism value chain
  • The status of carbon reporting in the tourism industry
  • Composition of direct and indirect emissions
  • Tourism emissions of 25 countries
  • How much CO2 domestic and international tourists emit as compared to an average inhabitant

Executives Interviewed

  • Ayako Ezaki, Managing Partner, TrainingAid
  • Jeremy Sampson, CEO, Travel Foundation UK
  • Ya-Yen Sun, Senior Lecturer - Sustainability at The University of Queensland, Australia