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Sustainable Tourism: Creating an Industry That Lasts


 

In June 2024, I attended the Global Sustainable Tourism Summit in Brisbane, Australia, along with over 200 travel and tourism industry professionals who share a passion for creating a sustainable tourism industry.

But what does a “sustainable tourism industry” mean, and how can we work towards that? I wanted to write this blog because it's a hot topic (excuse the pun!), and one that I am passionate about exploring further. I want to simplify the concept and give an overview for those just beginning their sustainable tourism journey. Additionally, I'll highlight some critical questions travel managers and tourism business owners should consider.

 

Let's start with some facts. According to the Booking.com Sustainable Travel Report, 77% of global travellers consider sustainability an important factor in their travel decisions. Furthermore, 80% of travellers are willing to pay at least 10% more for sustainable travel features, and 41% are prepared to pay 30% more for adventure and eco-tourism (WTM 2023 Yearbook). 🌿🌏

 

So, what are you going to do with this information if you are a travel manager or running a tourism business or travel management company? Read till the end to see some of the questions you should be considering.

 

For now, let’s break down what “sustainable” means. In my opinion, it means lasting or maintaining. How do we maintain the tourism industry and make it last, knowing that travel leaves a significant carbon footprint? I'm not even talking about the next step, which is regenerative tourism (leaving the place a better place to live and to travel to); let’s start with just maintaining, respecting, and protecting the land while we travel.

 

To build a sustainable tourism industry means creating one that lasts. This isn't just about protecting the environment or choosing eco-friendly accommodation; it starts with respecting and learning from First Nations people who have protected and cherished the land for thousands of years. Community consultation and collaboration with First Nations people are key to understanding how to manage and protect our natural resources effectively. Tourism can serve as a platform for First Nations people to be storytellers and truth-tellers, nurturing cultural tourism and leading the way in sharing knowledge about respecting and protecting the land.



 Tourism impacts communities significantly, especially when tourists arrive in large numbers. Over-tourism can strain local resources and infrastructure, disrupting residents' daily lives. Equally, when tourists only visit during high seasons, towns can suffer economically during the off-season, affecting local businesses and the overall economy. Aircrafts emit a lot of carbon emissions, and accommodating travellers increases the use of plastics, electricity, and pressures local economies. Tourists often travel in high and peak seasons, leaving small communities disrupted and economically strained during the off-season. These examples only scratch the surface of tourism's impacts on the environment and local communities.

 

The aviation industry has a significant carbon footprint, and the slow adoption of sustainable airline fuels doesn’t help the problem. While some airports in Europe have started imposing fuel taxes and some countries are reducing unnecessary flights, there is still a long way to go. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the environmental impact of air travel. When flights halted, global emissions dropped noticeably. This served as a wake-up call, leading to increased awareness about the need for sustainable travel. The airline industry has set ambitious net-zero targets by 2050, and many organisations are following suit with similar initiatives to reduce carbon emissions.

 

Instead of dwelling on the negatives, let's look at this holistically and explore what we should be doing to positively impact the tourism industry.

It’s great that more people are now aware of the need to make travel less impactful on the planet. They are choosing eco-friendly accommodation, reducing plastic use, and opting for public transport over cars.



 

The message I want to get across is that travel managers and tourism business owners have a unique opportunity to be change leaders and meet the growing demand for eco-friendly travel options.


Here's some of the questions I think such professionals should be considering:


  • Do you offer sustainable travel features and eco-friendly accommodation options to travellers?

  • Can you clearly and professionally explain the benefits of offering sustainable features and products to your customers?

  • How do you find eco-friendly accommodation and provide such options to your travellers?

  • Do you know some of the ways to offset carbon footprints when travelling?

  • How do you track and report on the business or leisure travel carbon footprint of your travellers?

  • How can you analyse traveller data to see if you’re reducing the carbon footprint?

  • How can you implement sustainable travel policies to encourage or enforce sustainable travel features for your clients or travellers?

 

If you care about sustainability but are wondering how to guide your travellers towards offsetting their carbon footprints and embracing sustainable travel, get in touch to discuss some practical ways to get started. I’m not pretending to be an expert, but I am happy to consult on the methods that I know to help you begin this journey.



 

Contact me at Diversified Business Skills for more information.


Daina Walker 

Diversified Business Skills.


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