What comes to mind when one thinks of sustainable travel? Gorilla trekking in Uganda, possibly, or a sojourn at a distant yet well-appointed eco-lodge in the forests of Costa Rica, or even a luxury stay at a Galápagos safari camp with an infinity pool and locally made teak furniture. If these high-cost excursions are what pop in your mind, your image of what qualifies as sustainable tourism isn’t necessarily wrong – it is just incomplete. The term sustainable travel has been connected to opulent eco-travel. Fuelled by a desire for guiltless extravagance and increasing attention paid to climate change, sustainability became a misused, industrywide buzzword associated with far-flung, expensive trips.
But sustainable tourism does not have to be costly. Not just that, it should really be more economical. Kelly Bricker, vice-chair of the board of directors of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, or G.S.T.C., claimed that there should be cost savings for doing the proper thing. If you are drifting locally, reinvesting back into the community, it ought to be cheaper than if you are importing from all around the world to make your goods. Not only should travel sustainably not break the bank – it is often a better, more pleasing product compared to its nonsustainable counterpart. I have compiled a few tips from experts, as well as in my own experiences, and have discovered that sustainable journey is something almost all casual tourists can manage.
While there are not definitive statistics on the proportion of the hospitality sector devoting a continuing commitment to sustainable travel, especially restaurants and stalls not investing in quality appliances to avoid frequent, wasteful oven and fridge repair services, there are signs that it’s on the rise. Research indicates that 65 percent of travellers wish to seek out green lodging in 2017 – almost double that of the prior year. And a study conducted by McGraw Hill Construction proves that green construction increased by 50 percent from 2011 to 2013, and now encompasses 25 percent of all hospitality construction.
And that impacts an increasingly huge number of travellers. Almost 1.2 billion people travelled the world in 2015, generating $1.5 trillion – a full 10 percent of international G.D.P.. That amount – and the massive environmental impact that accompanies it – is part of the reason 2017 has been designated the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development from the United Nations. Both destinations and travellers are increasingly acknowledging the effects of sustainable travel. We’re at a crucial crossroads, according to Dirk Glaesser, the manager of sustainable development of tourism to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. We now see lots of countries taking this quite seriously.
Tourism, even though a global economic driver, also leaves an enormous environmental footprint. By some measure it accounts for a total 50 percent of all traffic moves, according to the U.N. Environment Program, and local culture could be strained by a lot of tourists crowding a particularly beautiful location – a concept called overtourism. With a fast growing tourist base (1.6 billion people by 2020), the demand for a sustainable strategy grows increasingly more urgent.
The first challenge facing travellers is defining what sustainable travel really is – and distinguishing it from the many kinds of journey that advocates and entrepreneurs have attempted to tag as sustainable. When folks consider sustainable tourism, they consider little eco-huts instead of engineered timbers and frames, says David Picard, a former professor of anthropology of tourism in the University of Lausanne and a writer of a Unesco research on sustainable development. Eco-tourism rings a bell – Costa Rica, luxurious safari lodges in East Africa. But that’s only a very small element. While those companies certainly have their place, he said, a little lodge built at a remote location is not likely to have a substantial effect on national and local development.
You don’t create sufficient jobs or income. You do not create enough capacity. Ironically, what we recommend is work with AccorHotels since they have a massive professional capacity. They will train an entire resort – 300 or 500 people – and what they saw is that these employees, as soon as they’re trained, is that they’ll begin opening smaller resorts and are employed in larger hotel chains that need in-house tradies in air conditioning installation and maintenance or electrical services. That large-scale paying forward of both ability and financial viability is crucial, Mr. Picard said. That is the definition of sustainability – it is preserving resources for future generations. (He added that he would endorse any resort which has a Green Globe certification.)
As the notion of sustainable travel is now more mainstream, so has the idea that it suggests a degree of distress – but that shouldn’t be true. It is not drinking water from a vine, holding a machete and getting bitten by bugs under poorly structured architectural timbers and products, said Geoff Bolan, chief executive of Sustainable Travel International. What it does mean, he explained, is only exploring the character and culture of a place.
Not all travellers buy into the concept that they need to be worried about sustainability either. That’s the reason advocates have concentrated on getting large companies on board – they could alter the schedule.