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Prince Harry has called on people to view travel as an obligation after the coronavirus pandemic, but says there is an opportunity to do it better.
Harry, 36, was writing in the foreword for the latest Travalyst report, the sustainable tourism initiative which he launched while still a senior royal, and said it would be vital for people to help support the industry.
With holidays banned by governments around the world and travel very limited to stop the spread of coronavirus, the industry has taken a severe hit in the last year.
The Duke of Sussex wrote: “We know that to not travel again is not an option. It is our role — it is our obligation — to assist recovery and forge the right path forward; a path where we can again explore our world and expand our horizons, whilst the natural environment and wildlife flourish, and communities are supported.
“That is what we mean by sustainability in tourism and is what we strive towards as Travalyst.”
He added: “At Travalyst, we believe in the value of travel — in connecting with others, exploring the world, and experiencing new cultures and communities to increase our awareness.
“Yet we know that where demand for travel and tourism has grown exponentially, detrimental environmental and social impacts have followed.
“Even in pre-pandemic times, it was clear that the industry had not yet tackled some of its key sustainability challenges: climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss.
“As the industry re-emerges from crisis, there is an urgent need to reset and reimagine.”
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The report looks at the various options available to the tourism industry as it rebuilds following the pandemic, and suggests now is the “right time to act”, because the pandemic has “acted as a catalyst for travellers to reconsider their own impact”.
Harry said the lack of travel in some areas in the last year had “seen a temporary halt to destructive and high-density human activity” but on the other hand “millions have faced or experienced unemployment, communities that regularly come alive with visitors are silent, businesses that thrive on welcoming others have been boarded up, and valuable environmental and wildlife protection programmes are struggling to keep going with vital tourism income falling away”.
Harry added: “Together, we have a responsibility — and opportunity — to rebuild for a more sustainable and equitable future; one our world needs, our children deserve, and where generations not-yet-born can continue to explore and enjoy the beauty and benefit of this home we share.”
Prince Harry has long been interested in environmental issues, but he found himself criticised when he launched Travalyst, as he had used private jets on a number of occasions in the months preceding the launch.
However he said he only used them for the safety of his family.
Harry now lives in California with his wife Meghan Markle and their one-year-old son Archie.
Travalyst is a partnership of travel companies including Booking.com, Skyscanner and TripAdvisor working to promote sustainability in tourism.
The organisation says its goals are to protect wildlife, ensure local communities directly benefit from the tourism in their area, and to look after the environment, eliminating single use plastics and balancing out the carbon impact from flights.
Travalyst was founded within Sussex Royal, but is now part of the work Harry will do outside the Royal Family.
The Royal Foundation, which is currently run by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, awarded grants to Travalyst, which anti-monarchy group Republic took issue with last summer, asking the Charity Commission to investigate.
Harry hit back, with his legal team saying: “Travalyst (which was founded within Sussex Royal) is a non-profit organisation for which the duke receives no commercial or financial gain, as is the case with all of his charitable commitments. The duke has not, nor has he ever, had any personal financial interest in his charitable work. The interest has always been clear: to support others and to make a positive difference.”
Watch: Duke of Sussex introduced as just Harry during Travalyst conference