Theresa Bohel, Myght Contributor
What is Sustainable Travel?
When you hear the word “sustainability,” does one clear idea come to mind? If not, don't feel alarmed; this is pretty normal. In fact, Tourism Australia estimates that there are over 300 definitions for this single word. Most of the time, when we use the word “sustainability,” we’re referring to what the World Commission on Environment and Development defines as “forms of progress that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” And when we say “sustainable travel,” we're simply applying this concept to traveling: We believe that travel can and should be a force for the good — economically, environmentally, and culturally.
With a global contribution of over US $89 trillion in 2019, travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest industries. The sector employs 330 million people, which equates to roughly 1 in 10 jobs worldwide.
Yet despite all the economic success, travel is not always a force for the good. From excessive carbon emissions to cultural exploitation to natural destruction, mass tourism is operating neither sustainably nor responsibly.
The continued growth of the tourism sector — COVID-19 travel interruptions notwithstanding — not only means more economic and travel opportunities, but also a crucial opportunity to expand and enhance the way we preserve and protect travel destinations and their people, cultures, and environments.
In conjunction with the threat of global warming and other issues exacerbated by the travel industry, the rapid increase of tourism has made the push for sustainable travel now greater than ever. Around the world, the travel industry and travelers are recognizing this need and adopting responsible practices.
How You Can Support Responsible and Sustainable Travel
Travel and tourism is a complex industry, comprised of many independent and different industries (aviation, hospitality, tour operators, etc.), stretching all over the globe. And while it may be relatively easy to diagnosis the harmful effects of the industry, the real challenge lies in developing ways to address the problems and provide actionable solutions.
Unfortunately, like most large-scale global problems, there are few, if any, magical, quick-acting solutions. Instead we can expect change to happen incrementally. Nonetheless, some promising initiatives have recently emerged, like the 191-country agreement to help aviation achieve carbon neutral growth by 2021, and the partnership between Royal Caribbean and World Wildlife Fund, which supports ocean conservation.
Though governmental policies and regulations are capable of making the biggest impact, we as individuals and consumers must also take the necessary steps each day to enact and promote sustainable travel.
Here are some basic ways you can incorporate sustainability and responsible practices into your travels:
- Transportation: Opt for foot and bike travel when possible, and use public transport as much as possible. Try to mitigate air transport.
- Accommodation: Seek out accommodations that have green initiatives and is committed to sustainability.
- Food: Eat locally grown foods from local producers.
- Culture: Support local products and people, and always respect their cultures. Be especially sensitive when dealing with children – particularly street children who are begging, because though it may seem unnatural, you should try to refrain from giving them money; doing so encourages begging and perpetuates a cycle of poverty.
- Attractions: Take part in ethical wildlife tours and beware of delicate ecosystems.
- Consultation: Consult with responsible travel advisors to make sure your traveling is a force for the good. They can help you come up with ways to offset your carbon emissions, help you find out if your hotel has a sustainability plan or the option to reuse towels and bedding, etc.
Given the size and growth of the industry, now more than ever, tourism and travel must serve as a means for economic development, preserving nature, sharing cultures, building understanding, and creating a more peaceful world.
Interested in making travel a force for the good? Discuss your dream trip with one of the responsible advisors at Travel with Myght.