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COVID-19 – an opportunity for sustainability to move up the agenda in the travel industry?

Written by Steve Lambert, Editorial and Digital Content Manager

COVID-19 – an opportunity for sustainability to move up the agenda in the travel industry?

There have been few positives for the travel industry to take from the misery that is COVID-19. Yet even in the face of such adversity, aviation companies are finding new ways to make the best out of a bad situation. In particular, many are using this time to tackle one of the travel industry’s longest-running issues – environmental sustainability.

Speaking at the 2021 Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off virtual event, Aviation NXT president Xavier Tytelman said COVID-19 is presenting the travel industry with unique opportunities to improve its sustainable credentials, highlighting some recent examples: “Just now, there were trials to try to get an optimum flight above the Atlantic and they managed to reduce the CO2 emissions by 14%, without changing the planes.

“There are lots of opportunities like this because now we have big data, we have sustainable fuels, you can optimise operations. We think we can reduce the world’s CO2 emissions by 20% by the end of the decade.”

Indeed, with many passengers unable to fly due to lockdown restrictions, a number of travel operators have been trialling new sustainable practices in the midst of the pandemic. In February, KLM successfully operated the world’s first passenger flight using synthetic kerosine. In the same month, industry associations joined forces to launch Destination 2050, a sustainability initiative to help Europe’s aviation sector reach net zero CO2 emissions over the next three decades.

It’s no secret that the aviation industry is still one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, accounting for around 2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. And while COVID-19 is currently grabbing the headlines, environmental sustainability remains a major concern among global authorities and passengers. This worry will only grow as travellers return to the air.

The pandemic is presenting travel businesses with a golden opportunity to take a lead on environmental sustainability – one they should grab with both hands.

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