A call for a more sustainable travel industry
These past few months have been a journey of extremes for me. Contrasts as sharp as one can imagine. I’ve been to North America, Europe, Africa and Asia between October and now. I’ve talked to the locals, learned what moves them at the moment.
Environmental awareness in Canada
In Canada I talk about leaving no trace, respecting the environment and keeping wildlife wild. Not only is it part of my job. I actually believe in it and I believe that travel educates people about these issues.
The zero plastic trend in Europe
Europe is moved by a wave of anti-plastic marketing. First I thought how ironic that they now all throw away their plastic stuff and buy stuff made of something else in an effort to create less waste. Even if this is a golden opportunity for any company who sells anything made from not plastic, it moves people. And it is moving them in a good direction.
Unsustainable practices in South Africa
In South Africa, for the first time I was in a city that intentionally turns off power supply to its population for periods of time. Where there is not enough to go around. Where some resources are so scarce that only the rich even worry about waste. But at the same time they build golf courses in the savannah and have camp grounds with bathtubs.
Mass tourism destroys environment in South East Asia
In South East Asia I was struck by the extend of the pollution. I had read the blog posts on things to do in these places. But now I struggle to understand how we can write about activities and restaurants when the big issues stare us in the face. A stench from burning rubbish, animal attractions wherever we look, overdevelopment despite lack of infrastructure, plastic everywhere along the side of the road and a shocking lack of traveler education and staff training on sustainability seems to be the norm.
But travel should be a force for good! Not make things worse. But unfortunately, the type of tourists this region attracts and specializes in is rather hedonistic. I have seen mass tourism elsewhere before, but this was hard to bear. To see a destination allow the destruction of the natural world that is the basis for their tourism industry with so little effort to stop it.
Sustainable travel best practices
So, one afternoon in a hammock somewhere on an island in the Pacific I started doing my research. And I found so many great sustainability programs and hotels leading by example! I think, it is high time we share some more of these stories. And most of all, we as travelers hold our hosts accountable, because we have the buying power. We decide.
There are so many great blog posts out there about holding one’s self accountable and how to travel in a more sustainable way. That is important and a good first step. What I am missing is more accountability from the industry. There is a destination sustainability index for the meetings and events sector. But I didn’t find anything comparable for leisure travel.
What else we can do to make travel more sustainable
I would like to contribute to filling that gap. Therefore, my goal for 2020 is to share with you news of tourism sustainability programs, best practices I see on my travels and review hotels from a sustainability point of view. I cannot wait for the time when trip advisor reviews include less “housekeeping knocked my door at 8am” and more “can you believe they still had single-use plastics in the bathroom?” If you have any examples you would like to share or constructive comments please do share in the comment section below.