Bloomberg Green: Sustainable Vacations and the Rise of Ecotourism

Bloomberg Green: Sustainable Vacations and the Rise of Ecotourism

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This week the rise of eco tourism. How did sustainable travel take over at the public psyche. And does it go against the idea of luxury. I think we have to see if our our global community still wants to travel this way when the pandemic is over. The Green Sky scanner we speak to Berlin startup Omeo about how it plans to replace planes with trains. Employees around the world are working from anywhere and working from home. They're taking staycation staying longer and this means they're going into less crowded places and the dark side of conservation. How EU efforts to preserve Kenya's natural environment are exposing human

rights concerns. From Bloomberg's global headquarters in New York I'm Kelly Lines and this is Bloomberg Green. If the 20th century saw the birth of international tourism then the 21st century has seen the boom in eco tourism. It's defined

by the World Conservation Union as travel to natural areas that promote conservation have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio economic involvement of local people. It's now the fastest growing part of the travel industry with one in five tourists worldwide now considered eco tourists. In this edition of Limburg Green we'll look at the example of Costa Rica which was an early adopter of the eco label. Then we'll speak to the CEO and founder of Omeo a platform that seeks to become the sky scanner of sustainable travel. Plus the European Union's conservation efforts in Kenya will be evaluated in the context of their impact on tourism and the locals. Finally we speak with an eco tourism pioneer about what countries and

companies can do to make travel greener. So let's get straight to Central America. Costa Rica is ranked among the world's best eco tourism destinations with 26 national parks and 58 wildlife refuges. The country was one of the first nations to connect nature conservation with responsible travel and it's now an industry leader. Bloomberg Sylvia Markey has the details. Costa Rica's name literally means rich coast despite its small size. The Latin American countries one of the most biodiverse home to roughly 5 percent of the world's known species drawing over 3 million tourists each year. But the most impressive thing about Costa Rica is not just its natural abundance. It's the length seats people have gone to in order to protect it. How

Costa Rica became a pioneer in eco tourism. Back in the 1940s Costa Rica had one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world as land was cleared to allow planting of crops. By the end of the eighties the government intervened to restore the Costa Rican forests. In the mid nineties it became illegal to chop down forested areas without approval from

authorities. The government set up that pioneering Payments for Environmental Services program which was financed primarily by a tax on fossil fuels. The scheme has paid a total of 500 million U.S. dollars to landowners over the last 20 years to incentivise them to protect their land from deforestation. As a result today close to 60 percent of the land is once again forest and the

country is home to around half a million different species. Costa Ricans know the value of their tropical ecosystems and there is a clear economic payoff. In 2013 tourism contributed about 7 per cent of total employment making about 13 per cent of the country's GDP. But there is trouble in paradise. The surging tourists and the demand for land from foreign buyers and

developers is beginning to threaten Costa Rica's vast forests with land prices being driven up for locals and foreign companies often seizing opportunities to monopolize the country's real estate and manufacture of basic goods. As a result today there is a great economic inequality driving a wedge between Costa Rican citizens striking success. Costa Rica's had been restoring and conserving its natural environment is now under threat. And fortunately for Costa Rica or other eco tourism destinations getting there is more than half the battle. You could fly. But

that brings with it a carbon footprint as fossil fuels are emitted into the upper atmosphere. So what other choices does the climate conscious traveler. Half the new answer might be an old one. Train's rapid electric powered overnight trains could put travelers on track for a low carbon getaway. Omeo is a travel platform that offers the chance to find flights buses and

trains that connect to travelers favorite destinations. The company just closed an 80 million dollar funding rounds and its CEO Noreen Shine joins me now to discuss the future of climate smart travel. Noreen great to speak with you. Can you first just give me an overview of what exactly Omeo does. First of all thanks a lot for having me here. It's a pleasure to speak with Bloomberg. Yeah briefly in a nutshell what Omeo does as a consumer is for you as is you can search and by all modes of

transport across all the countries we operate in which is mostly thirty seven countries in Europe and US Canada as you can. What that means is you can buy trains buses flights ever transfer shuttles ferries any mode of transport. We mainly focus on ground transport and we connect with the underlying network operators and we bring that inventory for you. No way for you to bite in a simple manner with two clicks. Ideally if you if you already registered with us. Okay. So clearly there is a lot of

different options for a consumer that wants to travel. There's a lot of different ways that they can do it. How have you seen consumer selection of the way they travel change over the course of the pandemic. Are they taking ground transportation or are they training more rather than flying. So there's been a huge shift in consumer behavior towards ground transport. Pretty cold ground transports always existed. But you know for example 50 percent of all tickets and grown transport used to be sold at a kiosk. So you would go stand in line buy a paper ticket which is you know not as environmentally friendly as well. And consumers would travel corridors that would be three to five hours ideally by train which is in the 400 percent 6 800 kilometer range by flight because it's a one hour flight. What we see is some fundamental shifts in consumer behavior. We're seeing massive

adoption towards mobile. So 80 percent of our booking our bookings are coming from the app today which is very very large for consumers that you know have made a leapfrog from you know kiosk not a website but directly to the through the app ecosystem which is very very good. The second trend we see which is quite positive is corridors that are used to be majority flight dominated. Like I said in the three to five hours of travel time today consumers are taking trains one mainly because airports are as you know with two in the summer season have a little more hassle to deal with. You have to go early etc.. But if you actually truly count. Door to door travel trains go. City center city center. It takes you an hour to get to the airport.

You have an hour check in in an hour. Call it on the other side. So an hour hour and a half flight ends up being actually for four and a half hour journey. So as consumers get more educated towards doing transport there's a clear shift into ground transport. And the last one a very clear shift we're seeing is actually what's happening with the work culture which is you know people employees around the world are working from anywhere or working from home and they're taking staycation staying longer. And this means they're going into less crowded places non hub travel and ISE non hub tourism. Girls you need you need access to their own transport because you're getting outside of the

crowded airport and you're going into into accessing trains and buses to reach your destination. So this is also fueled. So there's been some fundamental shifts in consumer behavior that I would say is is here to stay and hopefully it's better for the world as well. In terms of sustainability well to that point if these are permanent shifts in behavior how much of it do you think is attributable to consumers and travelers wanting to be more climate conscious wanting to travel more sustainably. I

think climate consciousness has been a has been a trend that is incrementally growing over the last many many years. It varies by region for example in Sweden. There was a huge flight shaming campaign. So most most Swedes I know take trains even to go from Sweden to Italy for example. So climate consciousness is definitely is increasing. But I think the the behavioral shifts we are we're seeing are largely driven by color the post pandemic world in which we're we're experiencing the world in which we work from anywhere etc. And ground transport happens to be the better solution. Climate consciousness is growing. Might my wish is it grows faster because especially the younger generation it's growing

quite well. But it's not growing as fast enough to tackle the climate changes. So I think given there is a readily available solution which is high speed rail given the. Are investing more given that platforms like us allow easier ticketing. I just I just hope there's going to be a faster shift towards towards good on transport. All right. And again Shawn CEO of Omeo thank

you so much for joining us. Coming up while the leisure safari remains popular with wealthy Westerners flocking to Africa to see remarkable wildlife there is a dark side of European conservation efforts on the continent. We'll discuss that next. This is Bloomberg Daybreak. From Bloomberg's global headquarters in New York I'm Kailey Leinz and this is Bloomberg Green. Here is all the climate news

you need to know this week. A new report says the world won't reach net zero carbon emissions without putting an end to deforestation. The U.N. backed race to zero campaign warns companies committing to eliminate emissions by 2050 must act with urgency to stamp out tropical deforestation in their supply chains. Cutting down trees to raise cattle or to sell timber is

a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. EU nations have endorsed a push to eliminate carbon emissions from new cars by 2035 effectively heralding the end of the era of the internal combustion engine in Europe. Environment Minister struck a deal after Italy gave up demands for a five year delay in the plan. The home of Ferrari says it's satisfied with a compromise that would enable the use of carbon neutral fuels after 2035. And finally plans to build the UK's first deep coal

mine in three decades have been called absolutely indefensible by the chairman of the country's climate change watchdog. The mine in northern England would produce coking coal used in steel production. The government is expected to rule on its plans next week. It says the UK has cut emissions faster than any other G7 country in the past 30 years. And that's your green brief. Let's turn back now to the topic of eco tourism. Kenya remains a world leading safari destination in 2021. That's according to the

World Travel Awards. It's a country with diverse rich habitats and it's home to many endemic and threatened species. And while Safari is bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for the country conservation efforts have faced growing controversy. Bloomberg's Eileen Bag though reports the safari as a holiday destination was born in the 1920s with rich Europeans and Americans flocking to Africa to see and to choose the remarkable wildlife. One hundred years later Kenya remains a world leading safari destination with a growth and eco consciousness in the West. Wildlife conservation has become big business in Kenya. The current conservation model began in the 1960s when U.S. President Richard Nixon created the

Environmental Protection Agency. This was then introduced to the continent of Africa through public donors and government grants from the EU and the WWF. The European Union is now spending first two and a half million dollars on a six year project to support Kenya's efforts to protect its reservoirs and high elevation forests which the country depends on for its water supply. But why Kenya. The country is home to diverse and rich habitats many of them endemic and threatened species and more than 8 percent of Kenya's land is formerly protected. These areas not only conserve endangered wildlife but sustain the growing tourism industry which is among the top three contributors to the country's GDP. Kenya boasts a 39 conservation zones and 55 national parks with

luxury resorts as part of the scenery. For example all Joji owned by billionaire Wilder seems family is one of the most popular private game reserves and exclusive safari experiences for up to three hundred thousand dollars per week. Individuals and groups can have an entire 60 thousand acres of Wildlife Conservancy to themselves. So while Kenya's conservancy fees have long cultivated an image of luxury in harmony with nature and of untouched African landscapes and happy locals often in picturesque attire you only have to look below the surface to reveal the human cost. The European Union's project is meant to aid Kenya's resilience to droughts and climate change. But this program has faced controversy because of forced evictions and easing the killing of indigenous communities.

More than 2000 homes have been burnt down and 5000 people from the Sanga indigenous community in the Emirate forests have been evicted after saying Mahadev was killed. The European Union was forced to withdraw funding for that particular conservation projects in the area. Despite this the EU has committed another 5.5 9 million dollars for more conservation work in the country. The problem does not lie in Kenya alone. A 2021 report by the Oakland Institute said that land conservation in East Africa is still following a model based on violence and forceful evictions which is being held up as a model by the EU in their new nature Africa projects which is part of a green new deal in northern Tanzania an area roughly the size of Greater London is being cleared of human settlements and lifestyles to make way for a luxury game reserve run by an NYSE own company. The Tanzanian government claims that this newly protected area will benefit both tourism and conservation. But in the process more than 70000 indigenous missile people face eviction and 31 villages have been reportedly shot as with live ammunition and tear gas during a forced eviction last month. So while eco tourism is rapidly becoming a main contributor to

Kenya's economic growth there are increasing questions as to whether it is worth the human cost. Coming up next the future of sustainable tourism. How does it impact local communities and economies. And what could the future hold for luxury eco tourism. Sustainable development pioneer and conservationist Megan Adulthood will join us. Next to discuss this is Wilbur Green. So we've seen some examples of good and bad. Eco tourism. And many are now calling for higher industry standards as to

regulate the industry especially when it turns out to be destructive to the local communities and environments. Megan Edler Wood is a conservationist and eco tourism pioneer who founded the first NGO in the world dedicated to the fostering of tourism as a sustainable development tool. Back in 1990 as an NGO leader she has dedicated her professional career to that effort. Working in over 30 countries. And she joins me now. So Megan clearly you have been around to see a lot of progress in the eco tourism industry. How far does it still have to go. Well I think a lot of progress was made in 1990 through that

2010. It was led by pioneers and a great deal of entrepreneurial energy was associated with it at that time. Lots of companies were founded and you know lots of ideas have already been exchanged. Many many times around the world on how to make it even better at this time I would say it's a little hard to predict what will happen with it because of the big downturn in the tourism industry in general with Covid-19. Of course tourism as a whole has been jolted and yet something we have seen emerge really since the onset of the pandemic is people wanting to be more conscious in their behavior caring more about the social and economic and environmental consequences of the decisions that they make. So if the demand for eco tourism is there is there enough supply is there enough knowledge within the industry to be able to operate truly sustainable and environmentally sensitive tourism operations. I would say it's one of the better examples of the existing

experience in sustainable tourism because it was one of the first examples of trying to make tourism more sustainable. So we have over 30 years of experience. And as I said many of our senior members entrepreneurs say let's just take Costa Rica. They were one of the countries that founded the whole field of eco tourism. And to be frank there's lots of experience and energy that's still there that could be helping to guide the world. Well something we talk a lot about here on Bloomberg

Megan is the idea of greenwashing. And often we talk about it through the lens of ESG investing where you know a company says if you invest enough we'll put it to good use. And the metrics are a little bit murky. And there's been a lot of concern around whether or not they're as green as they seem. Is there a similar problem in eco tourism. How do you guarantee that the places you're traveling to really are doing their best in order to ensure that

environment and communities are protected. Well there's a variety of ways. One of the things that I recommend based on the research that we did at Harvard is integrated annual reporting that's most most of the business is an eco tourism are not getting ESG screens mostly because they're not public companies. You're talking large companies medium sized enterprises and then you have many small and even micro enterprises. So overall the greenwashing

would be hard to regulate because of the size of the businesses. But when you have the larger businesses like the one we studied at Harvard Wilderness Safaris they do annual accounting by an integrated annual reporting and have received impact investment based on very very serious screens. So overall what we found is that that style of reporting for the larger businesses is very very valuable. OK. So if some of the reporting and regulatory mechanisms have been challenges in the past what are the greatest challenges for eco tourism now. Well I think we have to see if our our global community still wants to travel this way when the pandemic is over. But assuming that there is substantial growth what my work is showing us is that we need to create public private mechanisms to oversee the growth of tourism through what are called destination management organizations. They are public private entities that are right now dedicated to just marketing

tourism. And yet they receive taxes that enable the possibility of creating more substantial mechanisms to ensure our destinations are protected. So essentially the government needs to be involved in this as well. It shouldn't just be up to as you say private enterprises. Well the private enterprises need to step up and we have to find common ground. But overall if we don't protect these beautiful places around the world and conserve biodiversity and create more natural capital to protect our environment we're not going to win. And business will lose out too. And I think there is a general understanding of that. But now we need to set up the management entities which is what I'm dedicating my work to right now. And finally we're talking about eco tourism as a whole but obviously there's different strata of tourism. There's luxury

travel for example and I'm wondering is luxury eco tourism an oxymoron or is that something that can be real. Absolutely not. It's not an oxymoron. What we want to see is eco tourism at all levels all price points. That's the main thing. I've been very experience working with community based eco tourism that has its own problems because they lack the experience and finance. Mid priced eco tourism is working very

well and luxury eco tourism is working extremely well because for example wilderness safaris receive that impact investment because just one guest was so interested in seeing that company grow that they helped to arrange that finance. So that kind of constituency is invaluable when you're talking about what I would call medium sized companies growing to be even larger in a very responsible way. So if I am a traveler and I'm looking to travel sustainably I want to explore the idea of eco tourism. What should I expect. What does that experience look like. Yeah well you should expect a lot of service and guiding and also a chance to decompress. You're usually traveling some distance to do an eco tour. You shouldn't try to

get up the next morning and just go crazy with birdwatching. What you need is that time to sink in and then your guide should give you a chance. And the actual corporate ownership should be orienting you very quickly on what you're going to see and how they're going to manage that. And then from there you have this very wonderful chance to be in these beautiful natural environments around the world and and really get to see the natural environment in ways that many people don't. All right. Eco tourism expert Megan Applewhite thank you so much for joining me. So the growing popularity of eco tourism is a step in the right direction even if it still leads the international regulation to set real standards for the industry. That's it for this week on Bloomberg Green.

But you can keep the conversation going by following us on YouTube Instagram and Twitter at climate from Bloomberg's global headquarters in New York. I'm CAC Lines and this is Bloomberg Daybreak.

2022-07-09 19:58

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