Prince Harry was back at work today after taking a few weeks holiday. During that holiday, I’m sure you’ve heard, he flew on private jets to Ibiza and the South of France with Meghan Markle and their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. They were dragged for it in the British press, who covered the story with more outrage and column space than Prince Andrew’s connection to pedophile rapist Jeffrey Epstein.
So what was Harry working on in the Netherlands today?
An eco-friendly tourism initiative.
The only way I can really describe my reaction to this is through GIF:
Here are more details about Travalyst, the partnership that Harry launched today with several major travel industry players.
This seems like a smart, well-intentioned project. They’ve obviously been working on this for months. It will, hopefully, help the planet, and educate people about their tourism choices. Nobody is here to sh-t on Travalyst. But let’s talk about the strategy around this announcement. Because the timing…ummm…. not ideal, non?
You’re coming off weeks of criticism about private jet usage and at your first public appearance since the controversy, you’re promoting eco-friendly tourism? It’s probably not how they were hoping this would roll out. This event would have been on the books for a while. You can’t pull together a marketing and publicity plan in a month so no, Harry and his team didn’t make this happen as a reaction to all the negativity that’s gone down over his private jet usage. No, this project was looming well before and DURING his private jet usage. So it’s not a great look.
If you’re the promotional team then, what are your options? You can push back the release so that Harry’s travel habits aren’t such a heatscore, maybe wait a few months so that the story isn’t so fresh in people’s minds. I’d love to know if that was an option and the discussions that would have taken place – they were DEFINITELY taking place – between all stakeholders about whether or not to postpone the launch.
That may not have been possible? Probably there were already actions in motion, a schedule in place, a lot of money already spent, and clearly they felt that a delay or a modification to what was already agreed upon would result in even more headaches. I guess? If that’s the case, the only option is to move forward and you do that by either directly addressing the headlines or ignoring them completely.
Harry… kinda did and didn’t. Per HELLO!:
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."
"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.
Here’s some of that on video:
WATCH: “I spend 99% of my life travelling the world by commercial [aircraft]” Prince Harry says at the end of the ecotourism launch when asked about his own travel behaviour. He adds he always offsets all his travel ✈️ pic.twitter.com/1xXvBiXsC4— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) September 3, 2019
Harry would have been prepared for that question. Had his private flying not been front page news for the last month, he may not have taken the question but now, going into this, he had to be ready for it. I don’t know that his answer will be enough for the British tabloids not to go for it tomorrow with all kinds of op-eds about his hypocrisy. It’s coming. He just gave them a green light to keep screaming about the private jets.
Maybe there’s nothing he could have said to prevent it. Because, oof, again the timing of this is so sh-t. Here’s the thing: Harry and Meghan weren’t frequent private flyers before Archie. When they were dating and when they were engaged and after they got married, they weren’t on private jets. This was Archie’s first summer. He’s so little. They’re still getting used to travelling with an infant. That was, as Harry is suggesting, probably the concern. And, again, there are other people who are more senior in his family who advocate for climate change awareness who consistently fly private so he’s not the only one who should be taking the blame. When Harry says, though, that “we can all do better”… well…
The undeniable “better” in this case may have been to have some more foresight about how it would look to be seen flying private, multiple times, just before launching an eco-friendly tourism initiative? It’s not like he doesn’t understand optics. And the optics on this…
It’s just not the best way to come out of the gate with something that means so much, that he cares so much about, that he is excited about. You want to give it the strongest start, the most advantageous beginning. You don’t want to take any chances of handicapping it in its earliest moments. So on that level, I don’t think you can give this effort an A on the report card. At best, it’s a B, probably closer to C. And Harry, as we’ve all seen, as we know, is capable of so much more. Better. He can do better.