Last Thursday, December 3, the virtual debate table “towards fair and low-carbon tourism” took place, organized by the Green European Foundation, the Green Transition Foundation and the Casa Encendida. This debate included the participation of Aurora Pedro Bueno, director at the University of Valencia of the Interuniversity Chair of New Green Transition; Javier Benayas, member of the Advisory Council of the Spanish Network for Sustainable Development; Karima Delli MEP of the Greens / EFA Group; and Rosa M. Tristán as moderator.
Since the last decades of the last century, tourism has positioned itself as one of the main engines of the Spanish economy. As an activity closely linked to mobility, it has registered a notable drop in the crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is estimated that up to 22 million jobs related to the tourism sector could be lost in Europe. The weight of this activity in the GDP of the Spanish economy gives us an idea of the impact of the crisis in our country.
Among the participants there was agreement that the tourism model follows the guidelines of the consumption model that has become widespread in recent decades and that, as Javier Benayas remarked, “this virus is a wake-up call for all that is to come, because the model in which we are living -of inhabitants and consumption- has no future ”.
One of the issues that Aurora Pedro pointed out was the need for Spain, as a world leader in tourism – in tourism product and in tourism policy – should lead the action towards sustainable tourism development. Accordint to her opinion, although some progress has been made in Spain, more courageous action is needed to position us on the paradigm path in tourism.
Among the challenges that the Spanish tourism model has and that appeared on the table with the aim of creating long-term sustainable tourism, we highlight the need to resize the low-cost phenomenon, especially in the field of air mobility. According to recent reports, air transport emissions have been underestimated and could represent three times more than estimated. As long as we do not have fuels that have less impact on emissions, the only instruments that we can apply are green taxes. As was pointed out during the debate, kerosene does not pay any tax in Europe and this is a difficult situation to explain. As Aurora Pedro pointed out, it is not sustainable to continue with a tourism model that sells flights for 5 euros, because we need tourism that generates more spending, more income for destinations. In other words, we “sacrifice” ourselves to receive a type of tourism -sometimes a predator one- that does not generate a minimum income. In addition, it is worth noting the need to measure the carbon footprint of tourism in destinations, which, for now, has only been measured in the city of Valencia.
Karima Delli added that it is not all about thinking about how to recover the hospitality industry after the vaccine, but that it is essential to think about the solution to mass tourism and, therefore, it is necessary to promote inland tourism, but designing management models to welcome tourism in natural environments, weaker and more fragile than urban ones.