Throughout the current global pandemic many people have avoided international travel, and are excited for the days of holidaying to new places to return. But how can sustainable travel and green tourism change the way we holiday in the future to make a more sustainable travel industry?
Sustainable tourism does not limit the places you can travel, it just means travellers show more respect towards the local culture, people and the environment.
Looking at Revfine’s list of tourism trends, top searches include eco travel and local experience, and tourist trends are shifting towards a more local and authentic experience and away from cruises and package holidays, otherwise known as mass tourism.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation states that sustainable tourism must be focused on these three factors.
- Conserve environmental resources and protect biodiversity
- Respect and preserve the cultures of host communities whilst benefiting them
- Address the needs of the visitors and industry whilst providing socio-economic benefit to all in a long term sustainable way.
Negative environmental impacts of mass tourism are linked with the construction of tourism infrastructure, such as hotels, roads and airports, which harm the natural environment. If tourists want to see natural sights such as beaches, mountains and forests, governing bodies need to put more responsible and sustainable plans in place to protect those natural features that attract tourists. Green Tourism can positively affect the environment through conservation efforts and raising awareness. There are also positive impacts for the economy when we promote green tourism, which include: employment, profit through foreign exchange and the creation of economic activity in local communities.
We also need sustainable travel so we can mitigate the pollution caused by air, road and rail travel. Tourism makes up over 60% of air travel which emits a lot of carbon dioxide, contributing to air pollution and to climate change. Thankfully due to innovations in technology more environmentally friendly aircrafts and fuels are being implemented worldwide. While the issue with emissions is still present, one way individuals can help is by using alternative methods of transport when possible, becoming aware of and calculating their carbon footprint, traveling to places that experience under-tourism (lack of tourism) and exploring local destinations.
Planning for sustainable tourism can ensure the sustained tourism industry in an area, which takes into consideration the environment, community, and positive economic effects. Integrating tourism planning into government policy can help with the economy, tourism infrastructure and environmental conservation, whilst considering the needs of the local community.
Some ways different areas have implemented sustainable tourism planning include controlled tourism, and using sustainable energy. For example, in Bhutan, controlled tourism is enforced with entry requirements and a $200 USD visitors tariff that includes expenses for accommodation and meals, while a proportion of the tariff is used to maintain the country’s infrastructure such as its free healthcare and education. Using sustainable energy is important for limiting emissions from tourism – in the Maldives, they are focusing on limiting the environmental impact of the tourism industry through renewable energy such as solar power and offsetting emissions from flights. Some resorts there are also completely carbon neutral!
If we as a world want to continue to experience tourism, it will involve a combination of factors. Efforts from governments worldwide to plan and implement sustainable travel and green tourism, while encouraging the global population to be more active and aware of the effects of their actions will be key, but there is also a lot we can do as individuals!
Here are some important travel tips to remember:
It’s all about the local adventures!
As a general rule of thumb, the shorter the distance we travel from our homes, the lower our carbon footprints will be. If you do want to travel further, there are some destinations that are more sustainable than others – Slovenia, Palau, Nicaragua and are among many low-impact travel destinations. There are so many amazing yet wildy under visited places out there!
If you do want to visit popular, touristy areas, consider visiting them outside peak travel months!
Put your money where it counts
Another way to travel sustainably is to visit destinations that need your support, such as those recovering from disasters. Puerto Rico’s tourism sector, for example, is starting to thrive after it was hit by a devastating hurricane in 2017.
Use eco-friendly booking sites
Sites like bookdifferent.com calculate your carbon footprint per night based on your selection and include eco-friendly ratings!
As you can see, there are plenty of easy, green travel choices we can make as individuals that require minimal effort but have maximum impact!