Tourism is an ever-growing industry where people travel for business, leisure, education, personal engagements, etc. It allows people to see beautiful sights worldwide, meet people, experience new cultures, cuisine, and more! Yet a larger looming issue at hand is changing this dreamy view. Climate change (a term we're all too familiar with) is inevitable and has a worrying grip on the tourism industry.
The transportation sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, making it one of the key areas where change is needed to achieve sustainability. With the increasing awareness of the negative impact of transportation on the environment, more people are looking for alternative, eco-friendly ways to travel.
In this article, we will explore the concept of sustainable tourism and how to reduce the environmental impact of travel.
Climate Change and Tourism:
Before we dive into our topic, let’s first understand the impact that climate change has on tourism.
Being a highly vulnerable sector, tourism depends on environmental resources, which climate change has a direct influence on.
As temperatures rise, the attractiveness of many destinations will fade. Winter sports will become less viable in some locations. Coastal tourism is highly vulnerable to rising sea levels. The natural phenomena that millions of tourists travel to see – coral reefs, forests, fauna-rich savannah – will be degraded or destroyed. The sector also faces impacts of a more general nature: more expensive insurance (from more extreme weather), reduced water availability, reduced food security and greater conflict affecting some communities in which it operates. Climate change will impact the tourism sector at the destination level, and at the operational level.
Statistics Related to Tourism and Climate Change:
9% of the global GDP comes from the tourism industry.
6 trillion US Dollars is generated every year from tourism.
255 million people worldwide are employed in the tourism industry.
60% of tourists opt for coastal tourism making it the largest component of the global tourism industry.
8% of the world's carbon emissions comes from tourism.
What is Sustainable Tourism?
For the tourism industry to continue surviving, the need of the hour is to find alternative solutions, one of those is Sustainable Tourism.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Sustainable Tourism is: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”
Sustainable travel is being aware of your environmental impact and taking measures to reduce adverse effects and preserve nature. Along with this, sustainable tourism also focuses on the growth of the community, local businesses, and industry.
Goals of Sustainable Tourism:
Places with natural resources, landscapes, historical buildings, or any other feature that attracts tourists are most suitable to develop sustainable tourism. Tourists visiting these places want to admire and explore the area in an environmentally friendly manner.
The main objectives and goals of sustainable tourism include the following:
Protecting the environment, natural resources, and wildlife.
Providing socio-economic benefits for communities who live in tourist destinations.
Conserving cultural heritage and creating authentic tourist experiences.
Bringing tourists and local communities together for mutual benefit.
Creating inclusive and accessible tourist opportunities.
Positive Impacts of Sustainable Tourism
There are many positive effects of travelling sustainably. You not only help the environment and community but also learn so much about the place, people, and culture. Sustainable tourism provides a wholesome meaning to travelling, giving you a richer experience.
Let's look at some positive impacts of sustainable tourism:
Lower Ecological Impact- In terms of food, eating locally harvested produce minimises an individual's carbon footprint considerably. Eliminating the need to import reduces costs economically and ecologically.
Protection of Wildlife- Many tourist spots allow their travellers to ride animals (like elephants, camels, horses, etc.) that are subject to cruelty. When you become a conscious traveller, you are more aware of animal rights and participate in activities that have the best interest of the animals as well.
Cleaner Environments- Sustainable tourism revolves around the health and hygiene of not just the individual but the surroundings and environment. A clean environment contributes to a brighter future. One way you can actively contribute to this cause is by reducing single-use and disposable plastic items. Even when travelling, find hotels/rooms that promote this cause.
Supporting Local Communities- When you choose to travel sustainably, you also contribute to developing the economy of that local surrounding. Local businesses benefit significantly with the help of tourists, giving a boost and encouraging a positive impact on that community.
When you become a conscious traveller, you are more aware of your choices that impact your environment. Many terms get thrown around when it comes to travelling green. One of those is eco-tourism. Like sustainable tourism, eco-tourism is heavily focused on nature-based activities that broaden tourists' awareness of and respect for cultural and ecological values.
While sustainable tourism is a broader term and focuses on environmental enhancement and societal and cultural preservation, eco-tourism leans more towards nature conservation.
Ecotourism is a sustainable form of natural resource-based tourism focusing primarily on experiencing and learning about nature. It typically occurs in natural areas and should contribute to the conservation or preservation of such sites.
What is Responsible Travel?
Now that you know the need to be a sustainable traveller, let's look at some steps you can take to travel responsibly:
Choose an Eco-friendly Accommodation: How? By ensuring that:
The energy the hotel/room uses is renewable- they save on lights and water (solar panels and rainwater harvesting are your best friends here). Another tip can be to check for the installation of smart tech to help regulate energy use.
Products used are eco-friendly (from packaging to the product's ingredients). There is a reduced use of disposable and single-use plastic items.
The food served is locally produced and organic. There is almost no wastage of food, and waste bins are correctly labelled for guests to segregate their waste efficiently. There are efficient waste reduction methods implemented.
There is ease of accessibility, and electric vehicles (EVs) or group shuttles are available modes of transport.
Another significant factor you can check for is how green the surrounding is. Accommodation with trees planted around not only cools the place down but also provides a more relaxing, quiet, and aesthetically pleasing stay.
Getting Around: Use public modes of transport. Fewer vehicles on the road also mean lesser traffic jams and lesser pollution levels.
Giving Back: Respect local culture and support local businesses while travelling. This helps build local economies and contributes to an improved livelihood of that society.
Travel Slow: Slow Tourism is a term which defines building a deeper connection, adding meaning to travel by engaging in local historical, cultural, and traditional practices while supporting the environment. It intensifies the positive emotional impact of travelling and contributing to an educational trip. Simply put, slow travel provides an immersive experience for tourists to pause and take in a new environment as it is.
At an individual level, adhering to these simple steps can drastically change the way you travel, giving you a richer experience. Preserving natural resources and habitats is crucial to a brighter, healthier future. So, choose a greener mode of travel and become a sustainable traveller.