Prince Harry has defended he and wife Meghan's use of private jets as a transport measure to ensure his family's safety.
It comes as the eco-minded prince is embarking on a massive travel sustainability initiative in partnership with key travel providers. The couple also aim to improve the practices of the global industry amid an ever-increasing number of travellers.
The Duke of Sussex picked Amsterdam, a city hit hard by over-tourism, to announce Travalyst at a news conference with his partners, Booking.com; TripAdvisor; Visa; China’s largest travel company, Ctrip; and the Ctrip-owned fare aggregator Skyscanner.
Harry drew criticism earlier this year when he and his family took a private jet to go on vacation, despite the flight’s carbon impact on the planet. They had flown to the home of singer Elton John, who said the aircraft offered them needed privacy and protection, and was carbon-neutral because it was offset by a contribution to Carbon Footprint.
“I spend 99 per cent of my life travelling the world by commercial” aircraft, Harry said yesterday. He said he would take a private jet only when circumstances called for it, and would offset the carbon footprint.
"Occasionally there needs to be an opportunity based on a unique circumstance to ensure that my family are safe. And it's generally as simple as that.
"But as I said in my speech, for me what it is is about balance and if I have to do that, not a decision that I would want to take, but if I have to do that then I will ensure as I have done previously and I will continue to make sure that I do, is to balance out that impact that I have and I've always offset my CO2."
He spoke about his long-term initiative for Travalyst, which is focused on tackling the travel industry’s impact on climate change, improving wildlife conservation, and protecting the environment in top tourist spots around the world. It aims to increase the amount of tourism dollars that go to local communities, and find answers to over-tourism.
"Travel has the unparalleled power to open people’s minds to different cultures, new experiences, and to have a profound appreciation for what our world has to offer," the duke said in a statement ahead of the formal announcement.
"As tourism inevitably grows, it is critically important to accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices worldwide, and to balance this growth with the needs of the environment and the local population. Bringing companies, consumers and communities together is our best chance to protect destinations and ecosystems for future generations," he added.
Among issues the coalition will focus on is improving on-the-ground travel and tourism entrepreneurship in local communities.
Last year, the number of international trips taken globally reached 1.4 billion, a number reached two years faster than originally projected by the United Nations’ tourism agency, the World Tourism Organisation. According to the World Bank, the number of trips taken annually by people around the globe has more than doubled since 2000.
Travel and tourism fed US$8.8 trillion into the global economy in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. In 10 years, the number of tourists visiting countries in emerging markets will reach one billion annually, comprising 57 per cent of all international trips, the UN agency said.
Other areas explored will include cleaner aviation fuel, more travel experiences focused on sustainability, and educating tourists on the footprints they make and the waste they leave behind.
“The commitment from these different brands to work together and help build a global network of like-minded social entrepreneurs, NGOs and policymakers is truly inspiring,” said Gillian Tans, chairwoman of Booking.com. “Collaboration is the only path forward if we want to create a real paradigm shift in travel.”
Harry began approaching potential partners for the coalition about two years ago. Specific programs and projects will likely be launched within the next 18 months. Harry will be actively at the helm.
Consumers are hungry for change, with 71 per cent of global travelers telling Booking.com they think travel companies should offer more sustainable travel choices, and 68 per cent saying it was important that their travel dollars support local communities.
At Skyscanner over the last 12 months, 10 million travelers selected the lowest carbon emission flight option, for instance.
Travalyst will be the first initiative to fall under the Sussex Royal charitable foundation of Harry and Meghan after they spun off from the joint trust established by his brother, Prince William, and duchess Kate.