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Press Center: Sustainable tourism: mobility as a challenge

Engaging in greener tourism requires the development of rail and soft mobility. Quit disrupting an energy-intensive sector.

Should we stop flying? After two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, the opening of the borders rightly revives the desire for a change of scenery and travel to the other side of the world. The resumption of international flights which is beginning at the dawn of this new summer season raises the question of the environmental impact of this particularly energy-intensive means of transport. But solutions that exist to travel while polluting less.

A major challenge, as the tourism sector released 118 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018, according to a study published by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe). In this assessment, mobility weighs very heavily. Modes of travel represent the main source of emissions, with 91million tonnes of CO, of which 80million (88%) correspond to the means of transport used to get to and from the places of stay. In total, the tourism sector represents 16% of France’s carbon footprint, for 7.5% of its GDP.

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and transportation

The transformation of this sector requires the link between tourism and transport, reviewemphasizes Batrice Jarrige, economist and long-distance mobility project manager for The Shift Project, for whom the long-haul plane is the bad guy in the business.
In a report released in April, this think tank, chaired by engineer Jean-Marc Jancovici, recommends limiting gradually long-haul trips while preserving freedom of travel as much as possible. On average, according to this document, the French travel more than 7,600 cumulative kilometers per year for their long-distance mobility, the vast majority destined for France. Planes and cars represent the main means used for these trips.
The least polluting mode of transport, rail represents the ideal practice for achieving the objective of an annual reduction of 5% in greenhouse gas emissions in the tourism sector. We propose to develop mobility by train as much as possible because it is electric and more efficient, recommends Batrice Jarrige, who is also a railway specialist. With a fleet of cars that will be essentially electric by 2050, the use of the train will make it possible to better distribute the availability of carbon-free electricity.

Develop the train

The development of rail would be based on new infrastructures linking the main European cities but also the smallest towns, according to the plan proposed by The Shift Project. The association also recommends the creation of new tourist offers to complement those already existing. We want to ensure that travelers can reach their destination by train, rather than taking their car or the plane, adds the economist. A solution that would be suitable for neighboring countries, such as Spain and Italy, holiday destinations very popular with the French.
The Shift Project proposes in particular the construction of several new lines, such as the high-speed line (LGV) Bordeaux-Toulouse, the doubling of the LGV Sud-Est by the realization of the POCL project (Paris-Orlans-Clermont-Ferrand-Lyon) and to continue the electrification of lines at the rate of 100km of tracks per year. If the cost of these operations amounts to billions, the economic fallout in terms of employment and accessibility could be considerable. It is a mode of transport where the more supply is reinforced, the more demand is created. It’s a virtuous circlebelieves Batrice Jarrige, who regrets that the offer, which essentially concentrates between some major citieshas deteriorated from year to year.
However, the increase in rail would require the creation of carbon governance for tourism involving different local levels, such as Regions and Departments. It takes a strong political will, which could go through a Minister of Tourism, continues Batrice Jarrige. A minister whose aim would not only be to bring in currency but to be able to propose a response to adapt to energy and climatic constraints. One thing is certain, concludes the economist: In terms of reducing emissions, we are still a long way off.

followThe fewer kilometers you travel, the less you polluteFor Batrice Jarrige, tourism that emits the least greenhouse gas remains that which takes place close to home. Low-carbon tourism is local tourism. The fewer kilometers we do, the less we pollute, she says. The Covid-19 pandemic has allowed many French people to rediscover the terroir of their region or elsewhere in the country, even if it means traveling less far. A beneficial habit for the planet and also for local entrepreneurs who can count on an abundant clientele.
There is a real awareness of sustainable tourism. Our mission is to ensure that the framework is clear and encourages people to switch to virtuous behavior, continues Batrice Jarrige. And to add: If all those who can not take the plane and go to the other side of the world do not do it, it will be better for the plant.

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