Prince Harry announced a massive sustainable travel initiative on Tuesday, just weeks after he and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, faced criticism after reports they took private jets. The initiative, dubbed Travalyst, brings together travel providers to improve industry practices, protect the areas visited and benefit the local communities.
The royal made the announcement at a news conference in Amsterdam, a city plagued by overtourism, reports The Associated Press. Some of the world’s largest travel companies have partnered with Harry for the initiative. TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Visa, China’s biggest travel company, Ctrip and Skyscanner signed on for the project, according to a post on Harry and Meghan’s joint Instagram account.
The plan centers around addressing the travel business’ impact on climate change, preserving the destinations tourists visit and boosting wildlife conservation efforts, reports the AP. The initiative will also work toward ensuring more money generated from tourism goes into the local communities and seek out solutions to overtourism.
Harry was quoted in the Instagram post stating that while he isn’t a “tourism or business expert,” he has noticed something “alarming” about the “unique relationship between community and environment” through his travels. He explained that there wasn’t “the symbiosis or connection” that “needed to be” and he aims to use his platform to find solutions to this through the new venture.
“Travel has the unparalleled power to open people’s minds to different cultures, new experiences, and to have a profound appreciation for what our world has to offer,” the Duke said in a statement shared with the AP before the formal announcement.
The initiative will also look into cleaner aviation fuel, travel experiences centered around sustainability and the education of tourists on the impacts they have in places they visit.
The program has been in the works for about two years and specific projects will likely be launched within the next year-and-a-half, reports the outlet. Harry will play an active role leading the program.
The project’s name, a combination of the words travel and catalyst, derives from Harry and his partners’ view of their role in sustainable travel as “catalysts to accelerate positive changes.”
He also addressed the recent controversy over his and Meghan Markle’s use of private jets last month. “I spend 99% of my life traveling the world by commercial” aircraft, Harry said. He added that he only takes private jets when it’s absolutely necessary and would offset the carbon footprint.
In August, some newspapers claimed Harry and Meghan traveled via private jet four times in 11 days, including a trip to the Elton John’s home in Nice, France, and speculated about Harrys commitment to environmental issues, reports BBC News. The legendary performer blasted media for their “distorted and malicious account” of the royals travel.
John said that after a “hectic year” he and husband David Furnish wanted the royals to “have a private holiday inside the safety and tranquility of our home.” And, to ensure the family was protected, the couple “provided them” with a private jet flight.
John then set the record straight about the environmental impact the trip actually had. “To support Prince Harry’s commitment to the environment, we ensured their flight was carbon neutral, by making the appropriate contribution to Carbon Footprint.” The organization provides carbon offsetting services to negate harmful emissions.
Harry has regularly spoken out about climate change in the past, and the couple’s Instagram account pledged in a post in June to raise awareness of environmental issues in July. He also said he and Meghan expect to have two children “maximum,” citing concerns for the future of the planet. Harry also recently visited a leadership gathering for the primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall’s youth service organization and posted about it on Instagram.