We must shift ‘urgently’ to rapid decarbonisation, says Intrepid boss

The boss of Intrepid Travel has told industry bosses that they must urgently shift to “rapid decarbonisation” to help avert climate disaster.

James Thornton, chief executive of the adventure tour operator, told delegates at Abta’s Travel Convention: “Travel and tourism is in the front seat of climate disaster.

“What we do now and tools we adopt will shape our future.

“We need rapid and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society as soon as possible.

“There is no vaccine for climate change.”

He said Intrepid is the largest travel B Corp company, which means its social performance is assessed for the highest standards, and it took the lead on being carbon-neutral back in 2010 – but that is not good enough now.

“We need to shift urgently to rapid decarbonisation,” he said.

“Signing up to science-based targets is the most important way to embark on the journey.”
He said 72 tourism and hospitality companies have committed to carbon emission science-based targets but only 29 have approved targets.

“Where is everyone else? Travel cannot meaningfully address climate change by talking,” he said.

“We really need concrete actions and need them now otherwise it is just greenwashing and I see a lot of greenwashing in the industry.”

He highlighted how Intrepid’s B-Corp status helps the company attract staff as well as customers, and showcased innovations that are helping cut emissions.

The operator has removed short-haul flights from its 50 top itineraries and replaced with alternatives, such as a bus trip from Aswan to Abu Simbel in Egypt, and partnering with slow travel specialist Byway to offer travel by train instead of flying.

Another recent innovation was a holiday in Sri Lanka that uses only electric vehicles, which generated “phenomenal” customer feedback.

He told delegates: “The world’s first trillionaire will be someone who makes a significant contribution to reversing climate change – but you don’t have to be a trillionaire to make a difference. And actions don’t even have to cost money.

“If people ask if they can afford to be more sustainable, I would argue can you afford not to? If we don’t take action we won’t have a world to show our customers.”

He added: “The really good news is that there is still hope; the travel industry can take meaningful collective decarbonisation action.

“We have got the knowledge, tools and innovations; the next eight years will be critical.

“We need to take small steps forward together.”

Photo credit: Arif Gardner