More than 300 million doses of the coronavirus vaccination had been given out worldwide as of today. Though there is still a long way to go until the epidemic is declared finished, it is beginning to seem like the end is near. What will the return of tourism look like after a year’s hiatus? Or, to put it another way, what should it look like?
International visitor visits have more than quadrupled in the last two decades, topping 1.4 billion in 2019. While the tourist boom aided economic development and personal pleasure, it frequently came at the price of the environment and local people. As tourism grew in popularity, it was accompanied by gentrification, congested streets, pollution, and habitat destruction.
Hawaii outlawed the sale of reef-toxic sunscreens, Dubrovnik limited the number of cruise ships that could dock each day, Palau safeguarded 80 percent of its waterways, and Barcelona clamped down on illegal holiday rentals in recent years. While these are significant strides forward, there is still much more to be done. You may contribute to the solution as a traveler. As the tourist industry recovers from the epidemic, we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to start again and pick a more sustainable course forward. There’s never been a better opportunity to reconsider old behaviors and modify our travel routines!
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What is the definition of sustainable travel?
Before we go any further, let’s define what we mean when we say “sustainable travel.”
While many people associate sustainability with reducing our carbon footprint, it is actually far wider and more comprehensive than that. It’s all about striking a balance between economic growth, human well-being, and environmental health when it comes to sustainable tourism. It aims to minimize tourism’s negative effects while boosting its good effects on communities, cultures, ecosystems, and the environment. Sustainable tourism considers both the immediate effects of tourism today and the long-term effects that future generations will face.
You’ve certainly come across other terms like “ecotourism,” “regenerative travel,” “community-based tourism,” “ethical travel,” or “nature-tourism” and wondered how they compare to “sustainable tourism.” These phrases tend to be limited in scope and focus on certain applications or components of sustainable tourism, without diving into the complexities of each. Ecotourism, for example, focuses on ethical travel to natural regions, whereas regenerative travel is more concerned with leaving places in better condition than they were before and correcting harm that has already occurred.
How can I begin to travel more sustainably?
Understanding what sustainable travel entails is one thing; putting it into practice is quite another. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 sustainable travel suggestions right now. Consider which techniques you may follow after you start traveling as you read.
1. Take a detour off the usual path
Many places were literally being loved to death prior to the epidemic, as they became victims of their own popularity. Historic towns, beaches, and other tourist sites were being swamped by crowds, a phenomenon now known as “overtourism.”
By avoiding tourist traps and venturing off the main route, you can help prevent a comeback of overtourism. While it may be tempting to visit the same bucket-list sites that everyone is Instagramming, exploring less-traveled areas may be even more gratifying.
The fact is that many tourist sites don’t live up to their hype — you may have to queue for hours just to realize that the destination doesn’t appear as good in person as it does on the internet. By venturing off the main route, tourists may have a more authentic and distinct experience while escaping the crowds. This does not imply that you must pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere, but it does need further investigation.
Explore Google Maps or ask locals or other tourists for advice if you want to go beyond the “Top 10” locations and attractions listings. Visit smaller cities or travel to a more rural location instead of staying in large tourist destinations. As a result, the strain on over-visited sites would be reduced, while tourism advantages will be distributed to other local communities.
Choose a small ship cruise line if you’re on a cruise. These vessels carry fewer passengers and may visit smaller ports, reducing the load on popular cruise destinations. If you’ve always wanted to visit a popular place, try going during the off-season. Check out this website to find out when the ideal times are to avoid crowds.
2. Take it easy and stay a while
It’s tempting to get caught up in trying to cram as much into a vacation as possible. After all, this may be your only trip to the location. On paper, a jam-packed schedule may appear great, but you’ll likely spend the most of your trip running from one location to the next. While you’ll see a lot of the attractions on your bucket list, you’ll lose out on getting to know the place. Not to mention that this fast-paced “hit-and-run” style of travel is a stress-inducing formula.
Give yourself additional time to explore the place if you want to do yourself a favor. Rather than taking several shorter excursions throughout the year, choose just one longer vacation. Instead of jumping from one place to the next once you’ve arrived at your destination, park yourself in one spot for a bit.
Slowing down will help you to fully appreciate the location you’re visiting. When you’re not rushed, you have more time to immerse yourself in the culture, form stronger bonds with locals, and learn about the destination’s distinct characteristics. Take a cooking lesson to learn how to create traditional foods and to sample the local flavors. Spend a day wandering or riding about town, and you’ll undoubtedly come across hidden gems such as a quaint neighborhood coffeehouse.
Take a stroll around a museum and arm yourself with a plethora of interesting knowledge. Travel experiences that are more real, memorable, and meaningful are enhanced by spending longer time in a place. At the same time, it relieves stress on the places and communities you visit while providing more advantages to the local companies you patronize. Slow travel has an added benefit: it is better for the environment since it minimizes the amount of carbon emissions produced by flying or driving between locations.
3. Take use of efficient forms of transportation
There are additional strategies to lessen the carbon emissions created by your trip besides driving slowly. Travel and tourism are responsible for around 8% of global carbon emissions. As a result, the travel sector contributes significantly to climate change, which is one of the most serious risks to tourism, people, and the world’s future.
The majority of tourism’s carbon impact is accounted for by air travel, driving, and other modes of transportation. While all forms of transportation use energy, some are more efficient and environmentally friendly than others. It makes a difference how you get to, from, and around your destination.
Planes and automobiles are the least efficient ways of transportation in general. Traveling by rail or coach to closer places reduces emissions while allowing you to take in the surroundings. Instead of hiring a car after you get at your location, try taking the bus, train, or cycling about town. If you must hire a vehicle, choose an electric, hybrid, or smaller vehicle.
Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for determining which mode of transportation to employ, since the carbon footprint is dependent on the kind of energy utilized. The most environmentally friendly approach will differ depending on the location. Wind-powered trains run in the Netherlands, zero-emission buses run in Washington, D.C., and some of Thailand’s iconic tuk tuks are turning electric. To make an educated selection, research the various transportation alternatives available in the place you are going.
4. Water and energy conservation
Tourism uses energy for heating, lighting, and electricity in addition to transportation. This, combined with visitors’ heavy usage of water, might place a strain on local water supply and energy infrastructure. Tourists consume substantially more water and energy than locals, and many places are unable to meet the demand. As global temperatures increase and the population rises, the situation will become considerably worse.
When you’re on vacation, try to save local water and energy resources as much as possible. When not in use, turn off the lights, TV, and any other equipment. When you leave your hotel, switch off the air conditioning or raise the thermostat a few degrees. Instead of taking a bath, take a shower and make it as brief as possible. To save excessive laundry, handwash your garments and hang up the “Do Not Disturb” sign. Staying in a low-impact hotel can also help you lessen your environmental effect. This might be a more basic, smaller hotel or a higher-end facility that uses renewable energy and water/energy-saving technologies.
5. Use carbon offsets to reduce your carbon impact
While you should constantly try to reduce your energy use, certain carbon emissions are inevitable. Carbon offsetting is a technique for compensating for these unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions.
Carbon offsetting allows you to offset your trip’s carbon footprint by lowering emissions elsewhere on the planet. Simply assess your carbon footprint using an online carbon calculator, then purchase CO2 offsets in the quantity of CO2 you created. Your offset payment will go toward programs that reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. One project may be to save a tropical rainforest from from logging, while another would be to establish a wind farm or transform cow dung into electricity. Carbon offset projects can also have non-emissions advantages, such as the creation of local jobs, improved sanitation, or the conservation of endangered species.
Simply go via a trusted service to guarantee you’re making the most effect possible while reducing your carbon footprint.
6. Keep your money in the community
The absence of tourists in many villages has harmed them during the last year. You can aid their recovery by ensuring that your money stays in the community.
Supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs is the greatest way to ensure that host communities benefit from tourism. Instead of staying in expat-owned hotels or foreign chains, consider staying in locally-owned homestays and guesthouses.
Enjoy traditional cuisine prepared using locally obtained ingredients at local eateries. Get out of your comfort zone and explore the local market – buy spices produced by a local farmer or jewelry crafted by a local artist. Although bargaining is customary and acceptable in many cultures, don’t be cheap and pay a reasonable amount.
Book tours conducted by local guides or sign up for a weaving class or surfing lessons to learn a new skill from a local expert. Choose a travel operator that favors local vendors if you’re on a package tour. While it may be tempting to donate money to beggars, this is a bad idea since it typically causes more harm than benefit.
Begging, at its worst, can be a kind of human trafficking, and well-intentioned presents from tourists can help to perpetuate a system that keeps children out of school and out on the streets. Even if this isn’t true, donating money to beggars might lead to a dependency on visitor donations. Making a donation to a local organization that empowers individuals via skills development, education, microloans, or access to social services is a better option. Patronizing enterprises owned or managed by marginalized groups such as women, indigenous peoples, or minorities can assist promote equitable income distribution.
7. Be respectful to your surroundings
One of the most fascinating aspects of travel is the opportunity to learn about different cultures, beliefs, and ways of life. Take advantage of this opportunity to broaden your views by accepting differences and immersing yourself in the local culture.
Before traveling, begin immersing yourself in various cultures by learning about the history, traditions, and etiquette of the area. Learn a few phrases in the local language by downloading a language app. Be warned that in certain places, certain gestures, attire, or phrases are deemed insulting. When visiting religious or spiritual locations, be extremely cautious. Only visit tourist-friendly locations and follow all safety precautions. At certain places, this may entail removing your shoes, concealing your shoulders, speaking quietly, or refraining from taking photographs.
Remember that wherever you go, the place you’re visiting is someone else’s home. Follow all local laws and regulations, including traffic regulations and health and safety measures. Make every effort to leave sites in the same condition as you found them so that future generations of visitors and inhabitants can enjoy them as well. Respect for the locals goes a long way; be respectful of them and treat them with decency. This includes respecting their privacy and obtaining their consent before photographing them.
8. Limit your usage of single-use plastics
8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our waters every year. This is the equivalent of dumping one garbage truck load of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day. Single-use plastics have been rejected by an increasing number of consumers, businesses, and governments in recent years. However, single-use plastics have made a comeback in the last year, as the epidemic has boosted the usage of plastic gloves, takeout containers, packing bubbles, and supermarket bags.
As the tourism industry improves, several hotels and tour operators are reintroducing disposable plastics as a precautionary measure. However, many nations lack the necessary waste management infrastructure to keep up with the massive amounts of plastic rubbish generated by tourists and people. As a result, plastics wind up in overburdened landfills or thrown in the environment, where they can survive hundreds of years. Because of COVID’s greater reliance on plastics, it’s more more crucial to limit your personal usage when traveling.
Single-use beverage bottles are one of the most prevalent plastic goods used by travellers. Fortunately, there is an easy solution: carry your own reusable water bottle with you on your journey! Bring a water bottle with a built-in filter if you’re concerned about the water quality in your destination. Refillable toiletry bottles are another environmentally beneficial item to have in your luggage.
Changing your dining habits is another simple method to decrease plastic waste. When visiting a restaurant, choose for dine-in rather than takeaway, which often includes plastic bags, containers, cups, and utensils. Visit the local street food scene, but look for sellers who serve food in biodegradable containers. Some people prefer to carry their own reusable container and utensils with them. In general, it is preferable to consume fresh, locally produced meals or beverages rather than imported foods or beverages, which tend to have more packaging. Even small requests, such as having the bartender skip the straw, can potentially drive broader operational adjustments.
9. Take a trip to a park or a protected area
National parks, marine sanctuaries, and other protected places play a vital role in safeguarding the natural riches and biodiversity of our world. To protect these unique sites and species, many nations rely on tourism taxes such as admission fees, operator licences, and bed levies. More than 8 billion people visit the world’s protected areas each year, spending nearly $850 billion. These funds assist in funding conservation efforts while also giving money to local communities.
This cash stream was effectively cut off by the epidemic, placing many protected places and endangered animals in peril. There have been worrisome reports of rising poaching and illegal deforestation throughout the world in the last year. As local populations turn to damaging activities for revenue and sustenance, the situation has only become worse.
Look up the protected locations in your destination and include one to your agenda as you plan your post-COVID adventures. When visiting any natural area, make careful to act responsibly to limit your influence. Follow all visiting rules and the Leave No Trace Principles to avoid harming sensitive ecosystems or upsetting wildlife. Be careful to support local communities by booking local lodgings and service providers, in addition to paying any use fees.
10. Opt for environmentally friendly lodgings and operators
Our third point focuses on how you can influence businesses to improve their behavior and promote sustainable travel as a mainstream option. Finding firms who are reducing their environmental effect and contributing to the well-being of local communities is the greatest approach to influence the industry.
While many firms have adopted sustainable travel, there are still plenty that do not see the benefits. Show them that you care about sustainability by putting your money where your mouth is. Keep in mind that just because a firm advertises itself as “green” or “sustainable,” doesn’t guarantee it is. Look for details on the procedures and policies they’ve established, and ask questions to demonstrate that you’re considering sustainability while making purchases.
What energy and water conservation measures have they implemented? Have single-use plastics been phased out? What are their strategies for promoting diversity and inclusion? Do they hire people from the area for managerial positions? Do they place a premium on local vendors and producers? Do they encourage people to engage with animals in a responsible manner?
If you observe any additional practices that the company may implement, please let us know. I hope you found these suggestions helpful and that they have encouraged you to plan your next vacation!