Prince Harry launches travel initiative after controversy over private jet use with Duchess Meghan

PHOTO: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex announces a partnership between Booking.com, SkyScanner, CTrip, TripAdvisor and Visa called Travalyst on September 03, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.PlayChris Jackson/Getty Images
WATCH Elton John defends Harry and Meghan for using a private jet

Prince Harry spoke out for the first time after he and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, faced criticisms for flying on a private jet during their summer vacation in Europe.

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“I spend 99% of my life travelling the world by commercial [aircraft],” Harry, 34, said Tuesday in Amsterdam. “Occasionally, there needs to be an opportunity based on a unique circumstance to ensure that my family are safe, and it's genuinely as simple as that.”

“But for me, what it is is about balance,” he added. “If I have to do that -- not a decision that I would want to take -- but if I have to do that, then I will ensure, as I have done previously and I will continue to make sure that I do, to balance out that impact that I have.”

"And I have always offset my CO2," Harry said, referring to his carbon footprint.

Harry flew from England to Amsterdam on a commercial flight to announce the launch of Travalyst, his new travel sustainability project.

Earlier this summer, he and Meghan were photographed using a private jet with their son, Archie. The couple faced backlash given their previous statements on environmental protection and climate change awareness.

Elton John then spoke up to defend Harry and Meghan, saying the couple stayed at his home in Nice, France, and he provided them with a private jet in order to "maintain a high level of much-needed protection."

"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 musician wrote on Twitter.

Other stars including Pink and Ellen DeGeneres also came to the defense of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but the royals remained publicly silent on the issue until Harry's comments today.

PHOTO: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend The Lion King European Premiere at Leicester Square, July 14, 2019, in London. Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images, FILE
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend "The Lion King" European Premiere at Leicester Square, July 14, 2019, in London.

The duke's new travel initiative, Travalyst, comes from the words travel and catalyst, according to a post shared on Harry and Meghan's Instagram account, @SussexRoyal.

The initiative is led by partnerships with Booking.com, Ctrip, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor and Visa, and aims to "spark a movement to transform the future of travel, putting communities at the heart of the solution," according to the Instagram post.

Harry acknowledged that he is not an expert on tourism or business, but "through my travels I have observed the unique relationship between community and environment, and have noticed something alarming."

"There wasn’t the symbiosis or connection there needed to be and I wanted to understand why," he said. "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."

Travalyst’s website does not include specifics on the initiative's efforts but indicates the focus will be on getting economic benefits of travel to local communities, preserving the environment and helping to "relieve pressure on overcrowded travel destinations."

"We plan to work closely with local communities and providers, leveraging technology to help scale sustainable supply to meet the growing mass-market demand from consumers - ultimately, making sustainable travel options of all kinds easier for consumers to identify, book and enjoy," read a statement on Harry and Meghan's Instagram account.

Harry, Meghan and Archie are preparing for another big trip of their own. The royals will make their first official overseas trip as a family of three when they visit Africa later this month.