A workshop focused on decarbonizing tourism offers while staying competitive held in Paris

The second matchmaking event of the TouriSME project took place in Paris on the 16th of May and was hosted by The Observatoire régional des déchets en Île-de-France (ORDIF).

For this occasion, participating SMEs and project partners gathered for a workshop named “Building a low-carbon & competitive tourism offer”. The objective was to help companies gather additional knowledge in this field, and to guide them in the application of the practices

The workshop was composed of 3 keynote speeches, which were followed by testimonies from 7 SMEs, and a conclusion by the European Innovation Council and SMEs, Executive Agency (EISMEA). B2B matchmaking took place in the afternoon.

The first presentation of the conference was dedicated to mobility and tourism, more precisely on the different levers to the energy transition. It was held by Aurélien Bigo, a researcher on transportation’s energy transition, for the Energy and Prosperity Chair at the Institut Louis Bachelier. According to the French national low carbon strategy, transports emissions were multiplied by 4,5 since 1960. Unsurprisingly, trains remain the less polluting transports, while planes represented 2.4% of anthropogenic emissions in 2018. The 5 drivers to the energy transition that are listed in the strategy were presented. These are based on demand-side measures, and innovative technologies such as increasing the vehicle occupancy, enhancing the revival of night trains, optimizing the energy efficiency of vehicles and moderating the transport demand among others.

For the second presentation, Myrto Tilianaki, Food Sovereignty and Climate Advocacy Officer for CCFD Terre Solidaire, discussed carbon offsetting (also called carbon neutrality), its limits and challenges. Carbon offsetting is the idea that emissions can be cancelled out through dedicated projects, just as reforestation or the deployment or carbon storage technologies. These projects have a set of criteria which are additionality (The reduction will not have taken place in the absence of the project), permanence (The reduction needs to be permanent, as removing carbon from the atmosphere can take up to hundreds of years), rigorous measurement, reporting, and verification, and human rights and biodiversity safeguards

Even though this practice is part of the Paris Agreements, a grey area remains on legal definitions and obligations, such as the definition of “residual emissions” which are the emissions that cannot be avoided, allowing companies to neglect their efforts in reducing their emissions. Moreover, numerous challenges are faced, such as the permanence of a project (for example, making sure that the trees won’t burn in a wildfire), the accuracy of measurement, as no general method is established today, and can lead to a lot of greenwashing.

The third presentation was held by Julien Buot, Director of the association and label of tour operators Agir pour un Tourisme Responsable (ATR), on sustainable tourism and the opportunities regarding the development of new offers. Sustainable tourism is indeed a path to safeguarding the environment, creating new jobs and creating value! There is, nowadays, a real demand on the market for this kind of tourism, which is no longer a niche, as younger generations are really questioning older business models. Tourism is both a victim of climate change, as many destinations are endangered and damaged, and a cause of climate change, as it creates about 10% of CO2 emissions. New offers promote train trips over plane trips, include sustainable and inclusive hotels, longer trips instead of shorter trips (especially for long distance), and include every stakeholder along the value chain.

6 SMEs which participate in the project then had the floor to present their actions and their experience, namely Discovery Trains, which organizes trips by train all over the world, La Route des Voyages, a tour operator for individuals, Odysway, a travel agency that offers slow immersive trips, Shanti Travel, that specializes in tailor-made trips in Asia, GenuineSpain: a pioneer agency which wishes to create a real shift in national tourism, and Group Los Telares, a 50 year-old company which operates eco lodges and the ethnographic park of La Gomara.

The conference closed with a presentation by Alan Vella, Project Adviser at EISMEA, which presented different opportunities for sustainable tourism companies, such has Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, the Enterprise Europe Network. This presentation was completed by 2 master class on how to establish a company in France by Choose Paris Region, and on the interactive tool which was developed by the Institut Paris Région and funded by the project by ORDIF.

You can find the replay of the conference here, and download the presentations used during the workshop below.