“The consumer is confused because there are so many certifications,” Ms. Guevara said, noting sustainability certifications by groups like the Rainforest Alliance and EarthCheck. The council’s proposed qualification, she added, will give travelers “some assurance of a basic level of sustainable practices.”
While the pivot to sustainability may seem slow in response to climate alarms, some travel operators have reported progress in setting and achieving climate goals. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, for example, received carbon-neutral status by Airport Carbon Accreditation, an independent assessor, this year for its progress, including cutting CO2 per-passenger emissions by 83 percent since 2010 and using wind power for 100 percent of its electricity.
Hyatt Hotels claims it has exceeded its 2020 Environmental Sustainability Vision to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent compared to 2006. It plans to set new goals next year.
Throughout its nearly 6,000 hotels, Hilton said it has reduced energy consumption 22 percent, carbon emissions 30 percent, water use 22 percent and waste going into landfills by 32 percent since 2008.
“In many ways, we are in a golden age of travel,” said Chris Nassetta, the chief executive of Hilton, citing the growth of travel globally. “Together as an industry, if we are not thoughtful, my belief is that we will damage our opportunity to pursue our great future and to take advantage of this golden age of travel. I look at this as an imperative for the industry that we work to deliver on a commitment to ensure sustainable growth.”
Environmental promises by cruise lines, however, have plenty of skeptics who point to Princess Cruise Lines, which was fined $20 million in June for violating the terms of its probation on a $40 million penalty for illegal dumping. (Small cruise lines are moving quickest to ease their impact; Norway-based expedition cruise line Hurtigruten, for example, launched the first hybrid-powered cruise ship this year and Lindblad Expeditions went carbon-neutral this year).
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