Travel DAZE Exec: John Pabon on why travel and sustainability do not have to be at odds & who the real climate offenders are

Travel DAZE Exec: John Pabon on why travel and sustainability do not have to be at odds & who the real climate offenders are

You might recognise John Pabon’s face. Not only is he a published author, world-leading sustainability consultant and UN advisor – he also boasts nearly 3 million likes on TikTok. For Pabon, sustainability should be simple. Ahead of his keynote at Travel DAZE Exec, Pabon spoke to Travel Weekly on why travel and sustainability can be friends.

TW: Is travel fundamentally at odds with the sustainability agenda?

JP: I love this question so I’ll preface all of this by saying, I’m not an activist and I like to like look at sustainability holistically. Sustainable travel touches so many people, because travel touches so many people, so I think the industry has a real opportunity to tap into this strategically. And there are plenty of companies in the travel industry that are serious about this so the wheels are in motion.

TW: You have a TikTok clip which went viral and shows what Industries are the real culprits. I noticed the travel industry as a whole didn’t make the list, yet they get a lot of grief about emissions.

JP- It’s certainly not the worst of all industries that’s out there. If you look at the super unsustainable industries like oil, gas, mining, defense, tobacco, those ones are quite bad. And they really are irredeemable at this point, there’s no way that they can be truly sustainable until they close their doors, or entirely change the business model. But when it comes to travel, and a few other major industries, they’re not bad, They’re not great, but they’re not bad. So there’s there is plenty of runway there, so to speak, to really change them. Change the negative press, and make them become more sustainable businesses. The travel industry as a whole is looking at things like sustainable aviation fuel and I do speak a lot with clients that are in the aerospace industry and cruising and they have an alternative fuel that will emit 80 percent less emissions. So while the technology is there it’s not available at scale yet, but it’s getting there.

TW: Can profit and sustainability can go hand in hand?

JP- They have to go hand in hand if we’re going to get anywhere. I think the more we ostracise business from trying to build a better future, whether that’s for the planet or for people, we are losing out on a massive opportunity. If we look the big players that can make a difference, you have three groups, right, all of us as consumers, we can make a difference. However, the problems are so large, the scale is so big, that our contribution is probably not as big as we might think it is, it’s a very small part of everything going on. The second one is, government. And we know very well that governments have kind of washed their hands of it, because they’re thinking about the next political cycle. That leaves us with the third group, the private sector, which is a massive part of the entire landscape. If you look at for example, the latest statistics that say that Netflix’s revenue is larger than the GDP of Mozambique, these organisations, they have capital, they have resources that individuals and governments just don’t. So why wouldn’t we tap into them to try to push the agenda along?

TW: how can cruising be more sustainable?

JP: I’m not an engineer, but I’ll speak just in general terms about sort of the same thing with sustainable aviation fuel. The same thing can be used when it comes to cruising. Smarter ships are being built, that are maybe not so large. That’s one thing. But you also have a captive audience of 1000s of people sitting on your ship. So why not use that to do a bit of education and talk about the initiatives they’re doing. When I worked with Costa cruise lines, I know that they did tours through their ships of the sustainable engineering that was being used and developed and people love to know these things. Don’t assume people don’t care. Assume they do.

TW: What advice would you give travel advisers about being champions for sustainability but also getting the commissions they need to make a living?

I think with travel agents in particular, if they do a bit of research upfront and lead their clients towards organisations that have a sustainable mindset, that’s a pretty good start. Nobody is going to be perfect, but at least there are companies that we know, that are doing more than others. So lead your clients that way. I think that would go a very long way to having a positive impact.

See John Pabon’s keynote for ideas and inspiration on all things sustainable and how to avoid greenwashing at Travel DAZE Exec.

Travel DAZE Exec is Australia’s leading forum for the most influential minds in the industry. Tackling an array of hot-button issues, Travel DAZE Exec brings together leading names to look at how we can propel the industry forward.

You’ll have the chance to hear from award-winning journalists, travel industry pioneers, authors, public figures, influencers, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, and much more.

Email the Travel Weekly team at

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