The Duke of Sussex has returned to his official duties following his summer break with wife Meghan and their son Archie. On Monday, Prince Harry travelled to the Netherlands to announce a new partnership between leading online travel firms that aim to transform the industry. At the event, the 34-year-old spoke about his own impact on the environment after the furore that followed his use of private jets, saying "no-one is perfect". The visit comes shortly after Harry and Meghan faced mounting criticism after reportedly taking four private jet journeys in 11 days, rather than opting for commercial flights, despite speaking out on environmental issues.
Prince Harry delivered a speech in the Netherlands on Tuesday
The Duke flew to the Netherlands on a commercial plane for the launch event in Amsterdam. He has spent three years working on the initiative, called Travalyst, which he hopes will improve conservation, environmental protection and help increase the economic benefits from tourism for local communities. Led by Harry and co-founded alongside leading service providers in the travel industry, Booking.com, Ctrip, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor and Visa, this first-of-its-kind initiative is dedicated to exploring and promoting solutions that will make travel more sustainable.
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During his speech at Amsterdam's A'dam Tower, Harry explained: "What is clear across this vast landscape is that our world faces environmental challenges of unprecedented scope and scale. From deforestation and the loss of biodiversity, to ocean plastics and poaching, the problems can sometimes seem too big to fix." He added: "These human-caused challenges often need a giant system shift to make a significant enough impact. And that is what this partnership is here to try and do. Sometimes the scale of the conservation crisis feels overwhelming and that individual actions can't make a difference."
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"I've certainly felt that - but I've learned that we cannot dismiss the idea of trying to do something, just because we can't do everything. We can all do better," the royal continued. "And, while no-one is perfect, we are all responsible for our own individual impact; the question is what we do to balance it out." When asked about his decision to use private jets, the royal said he uses commercial flights 90% of the time but does make other arrangements at times to "ensure that my family are safe" and that he has always offset his C02 impact.
The royal hopes the partnership will better protect tourist destinations and the communities that depend on them for generations to come. "I want to start with a little bit of background as to specifically why I'm here today, because as you may know, I am not a tourism or business expert, but through my travels I have observed the unique relationship between community and environment, and have noticed something alarming," Harry later said on the Sussex Royal Instagram account. "There wasn't the symbiosis or connection there needed to be and I wanted to understand why. I am one of those people fortunate enough to have a platform and I want to use it to tackle hard problems, in the hope of finding solutions… and that's how Travalyst was born."
Prince Harry has officially launched Travalyst
The Instagram message then continued: "The Duke of Sussex, having invited the founding partners to start the conversation, believes that the organisations - with operations in nearly every country, hundreds of millions of customers that use their products every day, and business relationships around the world - have sufficient influence and the critical mass necessary to catalyse real system change in the travel industry, for the benefit of destinations, communities and ecosystems."
The trip to the Netherlands comes before his tour to South Africa with his family. The royal trio will be setting off on 22 September. On Sunday, Harry shared a personal message with the couple's social media followers earlier that day, where he opened up about his excitement for introducing Meghan and Archie to South Africa.
MORE: Prince Harry and Meghan release statement following recent allegations
He said: "In just a few weeks our family will be taking its first official tour to Africa, a region of the world that over the past two decades has been a second home to me. Our team has helped create a meaningful programme that we’re so excited to share with you. On a personal note, I can't wait to introduce my wife and son to South Africa! We’ll see all of you very soon.' - The Duke."
Harry, Meghan and baby Archie, who was born in May, will be travelling to South Africa as a family, with the Prince carrying out official visits to Malawi, Angola and Botswana. The continent has a special place in the couple's hearts as Harry has spent a lot of time there, including working on charitable projects such as his organisation Sentebale, which he founded to help young people affected by HIV in Botswana and Lesotho. They also spent time in Botswana on a romantic break in 2017 before getting engaged. The couple married at Windsor Castle in October 2018.
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