• Megan Parfitt

Can tourism be sustainable?



Greenwashing, co2 emissions, and waste are plentiful in the tourism industry. Is it even possible to travel in a sustainable way? Although any travel will have negative effects on our planet, there are ways we can minimise our impact and still enjoy the earth we are working so hard to save. It is vital that the environmental impact of all aspects of your travel/holiday are considered, everything from booking to your return.


Booking your holiday


It is tempting to stick to the summer months when deciding when to go on holiday. However, infrastructures and ecosystems are strained from over-tourism, causing locals to be priced out of communities [1]. Responsible travel suggests that you should explore places which are less visited by others, or that you should travel off-peak. Not only will this support local businesses which struggle outside of peak season, but there will also be fewer people around, allowing you to enjoy yourself far more.


In terms of booking your accommodations, some companies such as Booking.com have a “Travel Sustainable Property” search function which allows you to discover sustainable accommodation. These stays are also accommodating to all budgets, so you shouldn’t have to miss out on a sustainable stay because of a budget.


Transport


A domestic holiday will always be more sustainable than going abroad. However, if you want to experience somewhere new, you might consider an alternative method of transport to flying. Sustainable transport can be best described as transport that doesn’t rely on finite resources to power it and aims to reduce the negative impacts transportation has on the environment. Travelling by train seems to be the most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transport, particularly in comparison to air travel. However, if flying is unavoidable, try to book direct flights as taking-off and landing of planes use more fuel.


Once you are at your holiday location, consider walking or hiring bicycles/ electric bikes to see the local surroundings. This way of site seeing is not only good for the environment, but it will also have many positive impacts on your mind and body and allow you to be fully immersed in your surroundings.


Packing


It is always very tempting to buy new things to take with you on holiday, yet these new items are rarely used again. Most fast fashion brands (I am sure you can make some guesses at who these may be) mass produce holiday wear, which is often of poor quality and not made to last. Instead, try using what you already own in new ways, and repurposing items. If you decide you do need new items, your first stop should be a charity shop. Not only can you find unique items of clothing for extremely reasonable prices, but you are also supporting your community. If you are planning to do new activities like hiking or backpacking, consider borrowing specialist equipment like walking boots or rucksacks from people you know.


Activities


Avoiding animal tourism is vital for keeping your holiday sustainable, particularly horse carriage rides and elephant riding. If you want to involve animals in your travels, ensure you visit registered sanctuaries and always do your background research. Booking local guides is also a way to support local people and businesses instead of large corporations who are responsible for the destruction of our planet. Although sometimes tempting, you should avoid souvenirs that are made from animals, and never purchase those made from endangered species. Instead, buy souvenirs that are locally made and support authentic cultural heritage. A gift will be more treasured if it is authentic and thoughtful. Better still, treat yourself to experiences rather than things, memories will spark more emotions than those keychains.


There is a lot to think about when planning your sustainable holiday. Here are a couple of extra tips to keep in mind:

  1. Bring your own toiletries, but if you use hotel items, bring them back with you. If they are partially used, the hotel will throw them away.

  2. Take one or two longer holidays if possible. This saves fuel and allows you to regenerate instead of a short city break.

  3. Do not feed animals, human food is not appropriate for animals, and it can get them reliant on humans. Try to impact the environmental ecosystems as little as possible.

  4. Ask permission before taking photos of people. Know the rules where you are travelling as in some countries it can be illegal.

As always, the current financial situation of many countries can make being sustainable a little difficult. Time away from everyday life is essential to the healing and regeneration of mental health, and you should not miss out because you cannot afford the most sustainable option. Try to compromise, if you need to fly somewhere, could you use public transport at your holiday destination instead of hiring a car? Starting with small sustainable choices is better than none, and will often lead to bigger changes in the future.

Let us know how you make your holidays sustainable.


References

[1] Overtourism. What is overtourism and how can we avoid it - Responsible Travel [Internet]. responsibletravel.com. 2022 [cited 23 July 2022]. Available from: https://www.responsibletravel.com/copy/what-is-overtourism

Sustainable tourism ideas: 57 ways to be a responsible traveller [Internet]. Mindful Feet. 2022 [cited 23 July 2022]. Available from: https://mindfulfeet.com/sustainable-tourism-ideas-52-ways-to-be-a-responsible-traveler/