Intrepid co-founder and chairman Darrell Wade believes the aviation sector has a “major problem” on its hands in terms of carving out a sustainable future.
Speaking at Travel DAZE 2019 last week in Sydney, Wade warned the outlook for sustainability in aviation was “pretty bleak” despite the industry wanting to think and promote otherwise.
“Flying gets about one per cent more efficient per year. However, aviation is growing at about four-and-a-half per cent a year, so the impact of aviation is getting worse and worse every year. That’s just the reality of it,” he told attendees.
“There is no bright spot in the future. We talk about biofuels and things like that. I was recently reading an article in the Financial Times saying how even if biofuels get to an economic price and a scale of production that we can use, you would need the entire surface area of Australia dedicated to the production of biofuels to cater just for the aviation industry.
“It’s just not going to happen. We’re kidding ourselves.”
Wade also spoke about the rise of flight shaming, which he believes won’t be going away anytime soon.
“There’s some data that came out on aviation last month from and within Europe, and aviation was down four per cent,” he explained.
“Flying in Europe has never been down ever, so I think people are actually starting to feel genuine guilt and remorse about hopping on a plane, and I think a lot of us in this room do too.
“This morning, I got on a plane and thought ‘here we go again’. You can hear the engines roaring. You can almost see the black vapour trail being emitted behind you.”
Wade said that while there is no way to reconcile sustainability through flying, the industry can start to look at how to reposition flying and, more to the point, where holidays are had.
“At Intrepid, we’ve got a legal presence in about 40 countries, and traditionally we’ve always thought of each of those countries as either an outbound market like Australia, the US or England, where you sell a trip and they go somewhere else, or an inbound market like Vietnam, Peru or Kenya where people arrive to a destination,” he said.
“As time goes on, I think we’ve got to start to flip it on its head and say a county is a country, so why in England, for argument’s sake, don’t we operate a product for domestic markets, so we have a lower-carbon offering.
“I think increasingly over time we are going to have to have a lower-carbon structure built into tourism products at a global level.”
The Intrepid co-founder has been on his own ‘carbon journey’ since 2006, having participated in climate activist Al Gore’s carbon training program that year.
Wade’s commitment to sustainability led to Intrepid becoming carbon-neutral in 2010, “following four years of measurement and mitigation”, and he said the company is looking to ramp its efforts up one step further next year.
“It’s taken a while and we haven’t won the battle yet, but we’re on the journey,” he said.
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