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Portugal and Italy Join Elite Group of Countries Growing Tourism While Reducing Emissions


Portugal and Italy have joined an elite group of countries that have managed to grow their travel and tourism industry, while reducing carbon emissions intensity.

The achievement was revealed as part of an ongoing series of data being released by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Saudi-based Sustainable Tourism Global Center. The research effort is one of the largest of its kind and is focused on accurately reporting and tracking the impact the travel and tourism sector has on the environment.

In Italy’s case, in 2019 the country’s tourism sector accounted for 8.4 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions nationally. That figure dropped even further to 4.2 percent in 2020. While the decrease is primarily attributed to the reduced industry activity amid the pandemic, the country has still managed to decouple its travel and tourism growth from greenhouse gas emissions, according to the new data.

Between 2010 and 2019, the sector’s total contribution to Italy economy grew an average of 1.1 percent each year, while greenhouse gas emissions increased just 0.2 percent each of those years. The newly released data also shows that Italy’s travel and tourism-related emissions continue to steadily decline.

In 2010, travel and tourism produced 0.37 kg of greenhouse gases for every 1 euro generated by the sector in Italy. That figure dropped, on average, by about 1 percent annually by 2019, when travel and tourism had reached its peak, to reach 0.34 kg of greenhouse gas emissions per 1 euro generated. In subsequent years, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions related to industry activity declined even further reaching 0.27 kg per 1 euro generated in 2021.

Meanwhile, in Portugal, a similar story has unfolded according to WTTC data—the country has grown its travel industry while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2019, Portugal’s travel sector accounted for 17.8 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions across the country. That figure was above the European average. But WTTC research also shows that the Portuguese economy relies particularly heavily on travel and tourism. In 2019, for instance, the sector contributed about 38 billion euros, which was about one-fifth of Portugal’s overall economy.

But the the share of greenhouse gas emissions related to the country’s travel and tourism activity dropped eight percentage points to reach 9.8 percent in 2020 and 10.2 percent in 2021. Again, this decline is attributed to the impacts of the global pandemic bringing tourism to a standstill.

However, like Italy, the country has also achieved the feat of decoupling its travel industry growth from its greenhouse gas emissions. During this period, the travel sector’s contribution to the economic grew an average of nearly 5 percent annually, while greenhouse gas emissions increased by just 4.1 percent each year.

The two countries follow on the heels of Germany, which earlier this month was also recognized by the WTTC for having achieved a similar feat of growing its tourism industry while reducing carbon emissions.

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