Covid-19 truly depicted the significance of the tourism industry globally, affecting both developed and developing economies. In 2021, international arrivals declined by 71%, but as the world started recovering from the pandemic, tourism surged back immediately, doubling (>130%) global tourist arrivals in January 2022. An individual’s desire to travel has never been more obvious. But as we fulfill our travel aspirations, we need to realize the sector’s impact on our planet. As per a research done by University of Sydney, tourism contributes to 8% of global carbon emissions, and according to UNWTO, these emissions are forecasted to increase by 25% by 2030. The stakeholders of tourism believe that the future resilience of the industry will depend on its ability to embrace a low-carbon path and halve its emissions by 2030.
Every year on September 27th, the UN World Tourism Organization celebrates World Tourism Day. This year’s theme is ‘Rethinking Tourism’ - a subject whose importance cannot be stressed enough. While the disposable income of people increases in most emerging markets, translating into greater travel spending, can the industry challenge the status quo and propel travelers to think differently? As the world opens and as the wanderer inside us awakes, we need to take more responsible steps to make our travel cleaner and more sustainable. Being more conscious about our footprints is the first step toward becoming a responsible traveler. And this can be achieved without compromising on our ideal travel plan.
Here is a guide to Planning Sustainable Travel:
Step 1: Know Your Destination Better
The first step of any travel plan is selecting the destination. Popular or lesser known, every destination, apart from its tourist attractions, has an ecological story. It is the story of local communities that strive to conserve their culture, protect their flora and fauna, and sustain their ecology amidst the rapidly increasing footfalls of tourists from all corners of the world. As a traveler, while choosing a destination, you should study it from a sustainable perspective, which would prepare you to travel greener.
- Having finalized your destination, know about its sustainability metrics - the latest innovations in tourism, the city’s sustainability ranking, and the efforts taken to become an eco-friendly city. For example, Paris has set a target of becoming a city of fifteen minutes, by removing parking spaces and making the city cycle-friendly.
- Become aware of the local community & culture, research the stories of the land and its people, and know how they greet, and what they eat, so that you can form better connections in your journey.
- Check for local conservation efforts, understand what the locals dislike about the tourists, and avoid participating in any such activities.
- Consider off-beat, conservation-minded destinations to have a more fulfilled experience.
Shoutout to 3 sustainable tourism organizations that will help you plan a sustainable trip:
- AndBeyond - Striving to leave the world in a better place, AndBeyond provides sustainable tour experiences in Asia, Africa, and South America. Their impact model revolves around three core ethics: Care of the land, care of the wildlife, care of the people.
- Steppes Travel - With the determination of creating a positive impact through travel, Steppes Travel is committed to making a difference within biodiversity and green energy. Steppes provides comprehensive travel options including honeymoon trips, family adventures and cycling experiences.
- Aracari Travel - Being the pioneer in high- end sustainable travel to Peru, Bolivia and Galapagos, Aracari Travel strives to create bespoke and extraordinary experiences. Aracari Travel has spent the last 25 years fostering relationships with different stakeholders within the sustainable travel industry.
Pro Tip: Aside from traveling consciously yourself, educate your travel agent about the significance of sustainable travel so that they involve necessary green measures at every step of your journey.
Step 2: Tread Lighter
Air travel, unsurprisingly, is the largest contributor of carbon emissions. While we are still far from sustainable flying practices being applied at scale, as a conscious traveler, you can now offset your carbon emissions and opt for similar more sustainable ways of traveling.
- Measure your carbon footprint throughout the journey, doing this makes you aware of the negative trail that you have left on the planet.
- Once you are aware of your footprint, offset your carbon emissions, and compensate for the negative impact by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide saving elsewhere.
- Opt for electric mobility when traveling within the city. Electric Vehicles are emission-free and witnessing rapid adoption across the globe. When booking for a cab, opt for a Blu-Smart instead of the regular cab services.
- Hop on to greener micro-mobility, this latest trend in mobility provides a joyful and convenient experience without leaving any negative impact on the environment.
- Slow down. Take a breath and explore the place on foot.
Shoutout to 3 brands you should check out to tread lighter:
- Cool Effect - This globally recognized non-profit platform helps you offset carbon emissions caused by traveling. Cool Effect helps reduce carbon emissions by combining science, expertise, and transparency. More than 90% of the donations directly go into their projects.
- Climes - Climes assists projects which rigorously reduce carbon emissions through verified solutions to increase forest cover and soil carbon. Their projects pan throughout India to help farmers and the environment.
- Lime - Lime is the largest shared vehicle company with high-quality vehicles and a keen interest in sustainability. This electric scooter and bike company makes it convenient for travelers to explore any city in an environmentally friendly manner.
Pro Tip: Explore the public transportation of the city instead of using private vehicles everywhere you go. Doing this allows you to truly understand the way of living and reduces your carbon footprint apart from being extremely affordable.
Step 3: Opt for Sustainable Accommodation
It is understandable that we don’t want to compromise on comfort while finalizing our choice of stay. But sustainability does not necessarily mean a compromise on luxury. While planning a sustainable journey, it is imperative to choose eco-friendly accommodation. After all, a truly luxurious experience is augmented by collaborating with nature.
As a conscious traveler, you should opt for accommodation options that :
- Empower local economies by employing people from the local community.
- Use renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydro, or other innovative green technologies for all their energy requirements.
- Give back to the community by driving community empowerment initiatives.
- Take efforts to preserve wildlife and support local conservation efforts in implementing policies as anti-poaching, environmental awareness, and wildlife rehabilitation.
- Adapt eco-friendly concepts such as no-plastics or reforestation policies.
Shoutout to 3 eco-luxury accommodation options to consider for your sustainable journey:
- Time+Tide (Africa) - With options to choose between three incredible locations in the African continent Time & Tide provides bespoke camp and tour services with a special vision for sustainability. Their four key pillars include community, conservation, sustainability, and local economies.
- Soneva Fushi (Asia) - Soneva Fushi has curated a sustainable ecosystem on the island within the laps of luxury which lets you experience island life in the best way possible. Disrupting the industry by levying a 2% environmental tax helps them create and sustain their sustainability initiatives.
- Evolve Back (India) - Evolve back is determined to strike the right balance between providing luxury to its customers while not compromising on sustainability. They achieve this by restoring the ecological balance of the destination as well as minimizing environmental impacts.
Pro Tip: While researching for eco-friendly stays, use websites such as bookdifferent.com which are devoted to making sustainable travel easier.
Step 4: Travel Consciously
Once you are en route, all the conscious planning needs to be backed by conscious traveling. While following the basics such as avoiding plastics and not littering are a given, there are further steps to be considered to enhance your sustainable journey.
- Indulge in sustainable activities - lowland hiking, beach cleanups, coral reef restoration, tree plantation drives etc.
- For specialized activities like skiing/camping/surfing, consider renting instead of buying the equipment.
- A major chunk of tourism’s criticism comes from the waste that tourists leave behind. Invest in sustainable products right from clothing to luggage to accessories, and opt for brands that are environmentally conscious.
- Most airports across the world have moved to digital boarding passes today. Check and avoid printing documents wherever possible.
Shoutout to 3 brands that will help you become a conscious traveler:
- Root 7 - Root 7 helps you stay hydrated without creating unnecessary plastic waste. The company also plants a tree in areas affected by deforestation every time you buy a bottle from them making it even more fruitful.
- Svenklas - With sustainability at the forefront, Svenklas helps you stay sustainable while being stylish. Using natural materials instead of synthetic they combine aesthetics, design and sustainability in the best way possible.
- Paravel - Achieving innovation and sustainability while maintaining a sense of aesthetic and luxury, Paravel is an acclaimed brand amongst travelers. They are fighting against climate change by following three key principles reducing and offsetting carbon emissions, incorporating eco-friendly materials, and planting trees in depleted ecosystems.
Pro Tip: Use Airbnb Experiences to explore local events in and around your chosen destination that you can take part in. Most of these events are driven by the local community.
Step 5: Go the Extra Mile
Conscious traveling is a fulfilling experience, and once you are into it, you would find enough avenues to go above and beyond the steps to planning a sustainable journey and take the extra mile by contributing to reinventing the ways of traveling.
- Spread awareness about sustainable traveling among your circle, share your green itinerary with people, and propagate this essential message of rethinking tourism.
- Venture beyond tourist attractions by finding places that are special to the locals, discovering the architecture, the history, the local cuisines, and a lot more.
- Take your learnings home, learn a little local lingo, art, and craft, and share the knowledge with your friends and family.
- Aim to leave a place better than you found it.
Shoutout to you, the traveler, for making the significant choice of traveling more consciously, more sustainably and contributing immensely to rethinking tourism. Sustainable travel might seem complex & challenging, but as travelers, once we step on this journey, it will only add more value to our globetrotting journeys and enable us to travel without the guilt of harming the planet.