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“Circular Economy in travel and tourism: A conceptual framework for a sustainable, resilient, and future-proof industry transition” by Stefan Einarsson and Fabrice Sorin (CE360 Alliance, 2020).

This report introduces and explores the potential of Circular Economy inspired ideas and practices to guide a more sustainable, resilient, and future-proof development of the travel and tourism industry. The Circular Economy has been gaining momentum in recent years, for its potential to significantly optimise resource use, reduce production and consumption related GHG emissions, while at the same time offering competitive advantage opportunities for businesses. This publication contributes to the conceptualization of common Circular Economy and circular value creation concepts within the travel and tourism industry context. In a ‘business as usual’ scenario, the travel and tourism industry’s underlying socio-economic and environmental challenges will remain and be further exacerbated as the number of global tourism consumers increases. Overtourism, GHG emissions and biosphere degradation issues will not automatically disappear once the COVID-19 crisis is under control. More than ever, those challenges will need to be actively addressed to rebuild a more resilient, economically, and environmentally sustainable tourism industry. The current focus is understandably on dealing with the pandemic’s immediate health and economic consequences. However, the following medium to long-term economic recovery efforts affecting the travel and tourism ecosystem may fall into two distinct paths: A business as usual: resource and GHG intensive linear ‘take, make, waste’ growth model predominantly based on volume growth. A circular model: intentionally designed to be regenerative of natural, human, and social capital, operating within the earth’s and local destinations’ sustainable boundaries. This report suggests that implementing the Circular Economy regenerative vision for the tourism industry offers a pathway to follow the second path; towards a resilient and sustainable, tourism ecosystem. It also suggests that travel and tourism has an important role to play in the Circular Economy transition, as the industry is deeply interlinked with and dependent on multiple key resource flows, asset, and commodity value chains in society – including agriculture and food, built environment and transport industries to name a few. Travel and tourism actors can act as enablers of circularity and benefit from shared circular value creation and value capture within relevant value chains. Through a system thinking approach based on collaboration, business model innovation and value co-creation, travel and tourism actors could increase their organisation’s and overall industry resilience, lower their natural ecosystem impacts and provide enhanced economic and societal value to the tourism ecosystem’s direct and indirect stakeholders