In September, I joined the World Travel & Tourism Council in appealing to travellers and the tourism industry to join a conversation about how we can redefine tourism, to ensure it is sustainable both now and in the future. I was overwhelmed by the response I received, but it also got me thinking. Would anyone really change their travel behaviour as a result of reading my post? So, I challenged six of my favourite travel bloggers to tell me how they plan to help redefine tourism in future…
Why does it matter?
The global reach and expansion of tourism has led to a deepening of its environmental impacts. The rapid growth in aviation, as flights became more affordable, has also led to a dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions associated with travel. This presents a major challenge to any claim from the tourism industry to be environmentally sustainable. Watch the video to find out more.
Travel Bloggers Respond
The original post was by far one of my best performing posts on the blog, and attracted a large number of comments and shares. But did it make any difference? I asked some of my favourite travel bloggers for their views.
1. Alex, from The Mindful Mermaid
“As an advocate for responsible and sustainable travel myself, this article really hit home with me. It made me realize that I need redefine tourism for myself and align my beliefs with my own actions.
“Going forward, I am committed to holding hotels more accountable by asking them about their environmental policies, ensuring that they are thoughtful and robust. I will continue to use my purchasing power to support local economies. As a proponent of “slow travel” I will continue to travel less, and utilize more eco-friendly forms of transportation. Lastly, I will use my blog as a platform to promote this commitment and paradigm shift in the tourism industry.”
2. Bianca, from The Altruistic Traveller
“Thank you for raising awareness about such an important issue. I have always believed, and will always believe, that responsible tourism can change the world for the better. An important part of that article was how the United Nations emphasised that increased consumer awareness about responsible travel was a key driver for greening the tourism industry. I believe this is not only true when it comes to greening the tourism industry but increased consumer awareness can also result in an increase of more socially conscious travellers, that are aware of where their money is being spent and what it is contributing to.
“Right now the travel industry lacks education about community-based tourism and how larger tourism companies are taking a way too bigger share of profits that could, and should, be going to supporting local people and projects, especially in developing countries. We have the power to change this scenario, and after reading this article I will continue to educate others about responsible tourism and how it can change the world for the better.”
3. Kristin, from Diaries of an Sg Dive Girl
“As a person who has, through diving, recently acquired a love and appreciation for the natural world around us, it now hits me how incredibly fragile everything is and how important it is for us to be invested in sustainable tourism. The video struck a chord in me as it shows the negative effects humankind has imposed on our world, but also the potential for greater good if all of us contribute and work together.
“While I will in my daily life strive to contribute to conservation efforts, such as using less plastic and avoiding sharks fin, I hope to be able to share my love of the sea and its fascinating creatures through my writings and my love for diving, such that others too, will work towards protecting our earth. I also wish to volunteer in coral, whale shark and turtle conservation efforts, to name a few.”
4. Kay, from Paws and Pines
“I try to consider the implications of my actions while traveling, but after watching the video, I know I CAN and WILL do more. Primarily, I try to avoid companies that exploit animals, but sometimes they’re tough to identify. It’s heart-breaking to see elephant chair rides or captive dolphins “hugging” people.
“I believe tourists don’t actively want to exploit animals or have them unhappy, but many aren’t aware of an animal’s situation before and after their visits. When people are aware, they can enact change. We see that with Sea World after the release of Blackfish, conversations around Cecil the lion and Harambe the gorilla, etc. What we definitely need is more information so I will work through my website to try and educate tourists about how and where to responsibly interact with animals while traveling around the world.”
5. Laura, from Grassroots Nomad
“Tourism has an incredible impact on the environment – sometimes positive by raising awareness, but more often than not, our impact has negative implications on the environment and communities we visit. This article has been great in making travellers really think and reflect on the impact that we have while travelling. As eco-bloggers, Grassroots Nomad really tries to keep this at the forefront of our minds as we travel. We volunteer, work with local organisations and always question our impact.
“Previously, I have contacted companies claiming to run ‘eco-tours’ and have questioned their practices, especially when they involve animals. As budget travellers, sometimes we avoid an activity rather than pay more for an eco-friendly option. After reading this article, we will make more of an effort to pay a bit more to emphasise the importance of sustainable tourism. As consumers, we need to put our money where our mouth is!”
6. Ellie, from Soul Travel Blog
“Since I’ve been on the road attempting to travel responsibly and write about my experiences, one of my biggest learnings has been that small steps really do make a difference. Especially if we, make them collectively. One example for me is deciding to travel with a re-usable metal bottle, and avoiding bottled water wherever possible. When travelling in the developing world, one quickly sees that disposal of materials like plastic is a huge problem. Take your average dreamy island in South East Asia. Nine times out of ten there is nowhere for trash to go except into the ground or the ocean. Sadly, most bottled water is consumed by travellers like us. With a re-usable water bottle I’ve been so impressed to discover how many places will provide filtered drinking water that is safe to drink, or boiled water, free of charge. Other restaurants and accommodations will refill your water bottle with drinking water at a fraction of the price that you’d pay for bottled water.
“On a 3-month trip through India and South East Asia last year, I can count on one hand the number of times I had to buy a plastic bottle of water. If we all did this collectively – or even some of the time – imagine what the impact could be? Other changes that I’ve tried to implement is taking the train more for short – medium term distances (I recently enjoyed a fun journey from Amsterdam to Lisbon by train) as opposed to flying. It won’t always be practical to do that, but collective effort counts for a lot. Lastly, I always ask hotels, guesthouses, tour companies about their responsible travel efforts. It’s amazing to see the wide range of responses. And I love being part of a message that is starting to hit home; that we as travellers care about our impact.”
Will you help redefine tourism?
It’s not too late to join the conversation, and it’s never too late to make a positive change for the sake of the natural environment or communities around the world. Only by working together, can the industry and consumers ensure tourism can develop responsibly while safeguarding the environment.
Please have a think about what role you can play in helping to redefine tourism and feel free to leave a comment below.