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  • Published on June 9, 2023

José Juan Lorenzo Rodríguez, Managing Director of Tourism of the Canary Islands, explains how the islands tourism is developing a suite of solutions to enable its whole tourism sector to engage in climate action.


You can watch the converstaion here.


The case study has been provided by the Tourism Organization of the Canary Islands in support of Climate Action in the Tourism Sector – An overview of methodologies and tools to measure greenhouse gas emissions demonstrating the value of taking action to measure emissions and accelerate climate action.

Located 1,500 km south of mainland Spain, the Canary Islands enjoy year-round sunshine that supports a lush subtropical landscape known for its rich and distinct biodiversity. This benign climate is also the basis for the Spanish archipelago’s success as a tourism destination. With temperatures throughout the year averaging between 18 and 24 degrees centigrade, over three quarters (78.4%) of tourists visiting said the good weather was a factor that had influenced their choice to come, above others such as safety, peace and quiet, or access to the sea. Unfortunately, climate change is putting this stability at risk - sea levels have risen between 5-10 cm since the 1980s and the most conservative estimates forecast a further rise of half a metre by the end of this century.


It is therefore vital for the islands that its tourism industry gets the response to climate change right. Tourism accounts for over a third (35%) of GDP and generates 310,000 direct and indirect jobs - 40% of all employment. Some 15 million international tourists visit each year (there are 2.2 million inhabitants), meaning the islands were ranked number one in overnight stays of non-residents by Eurostat in 2019.  However, the islands’ remote location also means almost everyone flies in, using 53 different airlines and landing at 6 international airports. As a result, when the island’s government measured the emissions from tourism in 2019, they found that while tourists’ activity on the islands was responsible for 1.85 million tonnes of CO2, the flights to, from and between the islands contributed 5.3 million tonnes (accounting for about 74% of the industry’s total footprint).


In March 2021, therefore, the Canary Islands Destination strategy made climate action one of its three main goals. In 2022, the Tourism Organization of the Canary Islands signed the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, and published their first Climate Action Plan.  And in 2023, they will launch a platform to support their islands’ tourism stakeholders to deliver on the three central Glasgow Declaration pathways of measurement, decarbonisation, and regeneration.


Measuring progress

The online platform is designed to enable individual businesses and destinations to play their part in delivering on the Canaries’ overall Glasgow Declaration commitment of reducing the tourism industry’s emissions by 50% by 2030. It provides users with a suite of more 220 recommended decarbonisation actions that they should consider for their own climate action. Recommended actions range from the simplest, such as “Avoid overloading refrigerators” or “Regular cleaning of lamps and windows” to more advanced interventions such as “Design a program of suppliers which prioritizes contracts with suppliers with a lower carbon footprint”.


“By coming together with other islands, there is an opportunity to collaborate and move forward faster together”


These 220 measures are categorised depending upon which sectors they are most suitable for (accommodation, catering, excursions and active tourism, land transport, inter-island sea transport and places of interest to tourists) and also by areas of action (purchase of goods and services, stationary combustion, mobile combustion, consumption of electricity, refrigeration and air conditioning, waste management, water management, transport and distribution, and travel for work).


For each of the actions, the platform provides detailed information on the estimated potential reduction as well as how easy they are to implement. Once the platform is launched, businesses on the islands will be supported in getting accustomed to its use. The Sustainability Office of Turismo de Islas Canarias coordinates a comprehensive consultancy and support service which will deliver technical assistance for the provision of information and resolution of any enquiries and incidents which may arise.


As individual tourism stakeholders use and feedback data into the platform both about their progress and their challenges, the Tourism Organization of the Canary Islands will be able to understand what the challenges and needs are for businesses and local DMOs, and where it needs to invest further in support and training. And increasingly it will also be able to build an ever improving understanding of  how well they are moving towards their overall decarbonisation goal.


Supporting regeneration

The Tourism Organization of the Canary Islands is also investing 2 million euros in developing a programme to enable the tourism industry to support regeneration projects across the islands. Any company in the Canaries that is either working on regeneration projects or seeking to start them is being asked to use the new platform as the place where they apply for support and promote their schemes. The rest of the industry - who are looking for ways to mitigate any residual emissions from their operations - are meanwhile encouraged to use the same centralized platform to discover and connect to these programmes.  By playing this collaborative role and centralizing support, the Tourism Organization of the Canary Islands aims to maximize the chances the schemes get funded, enable other companies to discover and connect to them, and provide a place and method to track progress. Combined these also ensure that the islands biodiversity and resilience both benefit too.


Hosting international collaboration

The Tourism Organization of the Canary Islands ´ focus on playing host to the best in climate action for tourism extends beyond its own platform or borders. Aware that the challenges it faces are similar to those faced by many other regional destinations across Europe, they are looking to ways to address them together. This began with hosting a convention for European island destinations at the end of 2022, where these regional destinations from across Europe came together to explore the shared challenge of connectivity in the context of climate change.


And in early 2023, they hosted climate action workshops for the membership of the Network of European Regions for Competitive and Sustainable Tourism (NECSTouR). “National destinations and companies are too diverse in their contexts to devote the focus to the specifics of regional island destinations,” explained José Juan Lorenzo Rodríguez, Managing Director of Tourism of the Canary Islands. “By coming together with other islands, there is an opportunity to collaborate and move forward faster together.”

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