Can Tourism be sustainable?
Tourism at its core identifies as one of the most environmentally unsustainable activities, contributing to carbon emissions at every step. Particularly transport and commuting, especially when facilitated by flights and private vehicles such as cars, motorcycles, cruise, etc.
However, it also happens to be an activity that majorly supports and encourages social and economic sustainability together and hence, must not be overlooked. Instead, tourism activities should be strategically planned, keeping the environmental, economic and social impact into consideration.
Tourism can be sustainable. And in this blog, we are going to explore the ways in which the concepts of sustainable living can be achieved across various dimensions of tourism.
Environmental Sustainability Recommendations
The increase in environmental pressure due to travel and people at a particular destination are critical contributors to causing an unfavourable environmental impact. However, it is not impossible to reduce or negate the environmental impact created by tourism.
- Opt for trains over flights wherever possible: Now this is the most tricky territory to tackle when it comes to long distances and the trade-off between time and money. But this is exactly when the choice counts the most. If you have the option to take trains or other means of transport that could reduce the environmental impact as compared to flights, go for it.
- Off-set CO2 emissions from flights: If you absolutely must take a flight, look for options to offset your CO2 emissions. Many airlines and booking platforms also notify you of flights with lower emissions.
- Choose to walk or use public transport: While exploring the destination, opt for public transport over private vehicles and cabs. You can also opt for non-motorised options such as bike rentals and e-scooters.
- Travel with your reusables: Carry your reusables wherever you go. Carry your reusable water bottle, carry a reusable tiffin. This helps reduce a lot of plastic and packaging waste created as a result. By opting for reusables, you focus on maximizing utilization instead of increasing demand.
- Opt for activities that have lower carbon emissions: Yoga, cycling, hiking, art, most destinations provide a large range of zero or low-emission activities. Opting for such activities can be a great way to contribute to the environmental sustainability of the destination.
- Turn on the Sustainability filter while booking your properties: Platforms such as Booking.com have created a Sustainability filter on platform. When you check that filter, you will find a list of properties that fulfil the sustainability criteria as prescribed by the platform.
- Be mindful of your resource usage: Turning off the lights, tap water, etc. and optimizing the resource usage is the best way to be cognizant of your resource usage. Simple, if you’re not using it, don’t waste the energy.
- Opt for digital solutions wherever possible and avoid printouts: Be it tickets, reservations or even visas these days, everything is available and accepted in its digital form. Opt for this option instead of taking printouts of all your documents. This makes accessibility better and reduces the environmental burden.
Social Sustainability Recommendations
As a tourist, you can play an influential role in shaping the social sustainability of the region you’re travelling to. As discussed, social sustainability is all about reducing societal gaps between people and creating better access to basic livelihood and quality of life.
Here are a few ideas for you to make a positive impact on social sustainability:
- Support local businesses: By supporting local businesses like tour companies, restaurants, etc you ensure that your money is invested in improving the lives of the locals of the destination.
- Shop Local: Continuing with the impact of supporting local businesses, shopping is an activity where you directly pay a monetary value in exchange for good produce. When this product is manufactured or created locally, it has a lesser environmental impact and better social aid for improving social and economic conditions.
- Choose local stays: Opting for local stays often translates to utilising existing resources such as accommodation and usage of lesser resources, such as the ones used at big hotel chains in order to avoid wastage and create more economic opportunities for the locals. However, this has also resulted in adverse cases where locals are suffering due to increased property rentals and more property investors from outside in order to ride on this local stay trend created by Airbnb. Hostels are a great option to share your living space and reduce the environmental impact that is unavoidable in most cases.
- Eat locally produced vegetables: The consumption of local produce, particularly vegetable increases their demand, impacting production. The case of local produce is considered to be suitable, hence good for the environment. It also helps your body acclimatize better to the local conditions. Thus, contributing, socially, environmentally and economically.
- Choose local tour companies: Local tour companies understand the strengths, shortcomings, opportunities and facilities of the region better, also leading to a better experience on a tour with them. In addition, by employing locals you contribute to social and economic sustainability as well.
- Learn about the local culture: One of the most ignored and yet important aspects of sustainability is the knowledge of local culture. You do not have to learn it because you’re only visiting for a brief period. Learning the local culture, even for a brief duration makes room for popularization, upliftment and scope for better opportunities.
Support local livelihood in any way that you can: The underlying statement for contributing to social sustainability is to support the local livelihood in any way that you can. Shop from them, employ them, tell the world about them, learn from them, teach them. As long as you do whatever little you can in making the lives of those who live in places that you visit, you make an impact for the good.
Even a small measure, such as dumping your garbage correctly or keeping your surroundings clean or using more public transport instead of private transport helps contribute to the social sustainability of the region that you’re visiting because you help in maintaining if not improving the lives of the locals with your activities.
Economic Sustainability Recommendations
Your entry into a new destination typically means that you will be paying for every product right from your stay to your food and drinks and activities, locally. So the very act of travelling contributes largely to boosting the economy of the destination that you’re travelling to, leading to economic sustainability.
Some additional acts to consider would be:
- Fair wages to local labourers: Quite often, the local labour may not charge as high as you’re used to paying. In some cases, they may be willing to negotiate further in order to make some income as opposed to none. To ensure economic sustainability, be mindful of paying daily through charges, and tips to the local labour for their services.
- Boosting local economy: As a tourist, you’re already contributing to the local economy. However, you can try to be mindful by trying to invest or opt more for local products and services as opposed to paying big brands and MNCs.
Being curious and looking for answers helps in more ways than you can imagine. Striking a conversation, and understanding the communities, cultures, and customs, will help you understand the needs of the community. You do not have to get to the depth of things, but every effort counts and can make you as much a part of the destination, as the destination becomes a part of your happy memories.
These destinations we visit may just be gorgeous places for us to see and experience. But they are also someone’s home and require as much care as yours. Give it a thought to how you could give back to the places you visit, responsibly.
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