Leading by consumption: Making travel meaningful and sustainable


By Romane Beaudouin, Claudia Pinto, Alice Morin; HEC Paris

Panel with Lourdes Behro (Alchemia), Andrés Castañeda Ochoa (Aeroméxico), Si-Yeon Kim (American Express Global Business Travel), Carlos Mackinlay (Secretary of Tourism of Mexico City)

Tourism creates jobs, develops economies, and in many destinations, it is the largest economic income for its society. This is how tourism has a special role for developing inclusion in society. For example, in Mexico, the industry generates 10% of the PIB and 70% of its jobs are held by women. The Travel industry is only planned to double in Latin America in the following 10 years, and for the rest of the world in 15 years. The only way we can balance this situation is through the implementation of technology.


But has the same time, tourism has a negative cost. It provokes pollution and has a huge footprint on the environment. Have companies thought ways to still grow but without harming the planet? Have governments thought of measures that will foster society inclusion through tourism measures? Have we thought as tourists that besides the positive impacts that we could bring to the destination’s society, we could be affecting the environmental footprint?


According to Si-Yeon Kim, American Express Global Business Travel occupies a unique position to be able to influence positive behaviors when it comes to climate change. As one of the world’s largest travel companies, AmexGBT has developed products such as Green Insights that help their business segment customers make choices that will reduce their environmental impact. Representing Aeroméxico, Andrés Castañeda Ochoa said that one of the biggest challenges of the company was to become fully sustainable. The Secretary of Tourism of Mexico City, Carlos Mackinlay, admitted that sustainable tourism in the city hasn’t been a topic for many years but that, today, there is a constitution promoting priorities concerning tourism, for the habitants of Mexico City but also for the tourists.


Each panelist exposed the commitments, the advances and the challenges their companies are facing today – showcasing models other businesses can incorporate. Si-Yeon Kim said that her company has belittled its ecological footprint in the last 4 years. American Express Global Business Travel has reduced its office energy as much as it reduced its water, plastic and paper wastes. Andrés Castañeda Ochoa, told us about the sustainability reports made by Aeroméxico. The challenges of Aeroméxico are now to help the society, promote inclusion and diversity. “We want to grow up every year but in a sustainable way.” In 2016, the company entered the “United Nations objectives chart” in order to achieve them by 2030, particularly the 13th objective.


Carlos Mackinlay explained to us the importance of developing business tourism in Mexico City: according to him, more tourists give more jobs and generate incomes. But at the moment, there are still inequalities in the city concerning tourism: 80% of the touristic activity is concentrated in the same places (Centro Histórico, San Ángel, Coyoacan, Santa Fe…). Then, the 5 billion US dollars industry and all the jobs are given to the same people in the same places. This is why Tourism office of Mexico City’s Government has just changed their perspective of tourism in CDMX. Before this new government, tourism was expected to just be a booster of the city’s economic growth, now it is seen as a way to generate more equality and inclusion in CDMX’s society. That’s why the Secretary of Tourism launched the “Turismo del Barrio” program that consists in producing tourism in the atypical and so-called dangerous neighborhoods. This program consists in creating tourism related jobs in those neighborhoods to attract the tourists. This program will, at the same time, “benefit the local populations and allow to share Mexican real traditions, gastronomy, sports… to the tourists, for them to experience the Mexican way-of-life.”


Also, the companies need to benefit from the fact of being or becoming sustainable. All the panelists agreed to say that they believe in the power of travels but that it was urgently needed to offset the negative impact of tourism. As Carlos Mackinlay said, “we all need to change the equation.” Andrés Castañeda Ochoa announced that the previsions are expecting the profit of tourism to duplicate in the next 10 years. In the last 10 years, the number of travelers flying with Aeroméxico has increased by 100%. At this moment, all the panelists agreed not only about the existence of the negative impact of tourism on the environment, but also on the emergency to reduce it. That’s why they all presented technologies as a medium to keep developing the industry while making it greener. “Aeroméxico has changed all its fleet in the past few years to reduce its impact on the environment”, said Andrés Castañeda Ochoa about the switch from the 777 aircraft model to the 787. This led to a reduction of CO2 emissions by 25% while increasing flight capacity by 20%


All the panelists also agreed on the power of the customers, particularly the millennials, who take sustainable development issues more seriously than the other generations. Andrés Castañeda Ochoa and Si-Yeon Kim noted an augmentation of the number of travelers that were choosing to offset their trips. Si-Yeon Kim said that “more and more people are demanding for information. They want to travel but know the impact of doing it and want to reduce their footprint.” She followed saying that the travelers want meaningful initiatives, for example discover local food, local culture, local charities etc. Carlos Mackinlay agreed to this statement saying that the program “Turismo del Barrio” is interesting a lot of tourists, even the even the ones practicing a “luxurious tourism”. The clients also have a real power to play in those issues. As Andrés Castañeda said “in the end who has the greatest strength to push the boundaries are the customers, the more they demand the companies, the more they will be able to put pressure on the whole industry”.


 This article is part of a series on #WFAmericas. Watch the full session on YouTube.