sustainable tourism solutions
October 29, 2019
Sustainable Tourism: How is the Green Revolution affecting the travel industry and what can companies do about it
Graciela Perez

Graciela Perez

Sustainable Tourism or the “green revolution” is not just a trend, it has become a responsibility – a lifestyle choice for each one of us. Following the green trend means to adjust your actions to live a sustainable life and habits, that can help not only protect the environment, but also ensure its growth and stability.

This Green Revolution has taken over the world by a storm, and its impact travels across all industries. The travel and tourism industry is no exception to that, as it has been facing its fair share of turbulence. There have been climate strikes, flight shaming, and various protests calling out the travel sector for these contributions to global warming. Chances are that these forms of distress will prevail if travel companies take longer to adapt to the sustainable tourism trend. Fortunately, positive changes have been emerging in response to these global concerns.

As a response to every new obstacle, travel companies rise with innovative solutions to disrupt the industry in different – sustainable – ways. The next ideal step, however, is to start developing these solutions to anticipate travelers’ behaviors and expectations, instead of using them as an answer to an already alarming demand.

green revolution - sustainable tourism

Let’s not forget about Overtourism

Now there’s such a thing as too much tourism. In this era of environmental awareness and activist organizations preaching green to the masses, the global travel players can take a huge hit unless they make “Sustainable Tourism” their motto.

With the ever-growing number of tourists exploring the world, popular holiday destinations are coming up with measures to prevent the negative effects of overtourism. In general, cities are developing ways to make popular destinations accessible while controlling the number of visitors coming through and how they impact the site. For example, Amsterdam is preventing new hotels from being built and restricting space sharing websites such as Airbnb. Machu Picchu visitors must travel with an approved guide and stay on certain trails.

Many places have become quite ingenious in their quest to prevent overtourism. Social media, one of the contributors to overtourism, is now being used to attract visitors to less popular locations. Wellness tourism, especially when located close to popular destinations, has the potential to pull away consumers from overpopulated locations. Smart measures, such as these, allow critical tourism revenue to flow in while protecting the people and cultures of the destinations.

New moves towards sustainable services

Fortunately, the travel industry is realizing the importance of the sustainable tourism and trying to play their role in reducing their ecological footprint. Hotel brands have been aiming to ditch the use of plastics. Edition Hotels have pledged to end the use of single-use plastics this year, which has been applauded by the masses. Hilton Hotels and Alaska Airlines have also pledged to eliminate the use of plastic straws completely. Travel operators like AndBeyond and Kynder are offering eco-friendly trips and tours that promote the local community of the destinations. Intrepid Travel is now officially a carbon-neutral travel brand – a trip planned with them ensures that the traveler is playing no role in the damage to the environment. Travel agencies are offering exclusive deals to promote holidays to lesser-known destinations and exploring the local way of living.

But not all rely on travel companies. Travelers realize they are as much responsible as the companies when it comes to the adverse effects of the travel sector on the environment. Research by Edelman claims that 64% of the travelers are now refusing to go for businesses that they believe are not serious about taking proper steps to protect the environment. According to a survey of TripAdvisor, nearly 70% of the consumers are pledging to make eco-friendly choices on their future trips. People are starting to realize their responsibility to leave the place they’re visiting better than they found it. Travelers are opting for touring companies that are supporting the local communities, promoting their local products, offering eco-friendly adventures, and green modes of transportation.

Going green is a necessity, but it’s easier said than done. The travel sector as a whole has indeed started to take the environment seriously and is trying to play a positive role in this revolution. However, it is always important to remember that not only companies carry these responsibilities; travelers are also a crucial part of the sustainable tourism revolution.

Some ideas to start adopting sustainable tourism

Educating and responding to consumers’ sustainable demands requires work. However, this does not mean that there aren’t any ideas out there that companies can start to act upon. In hospitality, hotels are already making changes. Hilton is drawing attention to the impact it has on communities. It has developed goals to cut its footprint and increase its social impact by 2030. Iberostar Hotels, a Spanish hotel chain, pledge to eliminate the use of plastics in their hotels by next year. Moreover, Caesars Entertainment has adopted water-saving practices that allowed it to save 50 million gallons of water between 2008 and 2013.

Furthermore, the airline sector has also started to implement green ideas. United Airlines, among other carriers, is working on reducing its emissions from flying by using biofuel. Delta is aiming to abolish the use of plastic in flights that today generate over 300,000 pounds of waste per year. KLM recycle materials and applies measures to reduce noise pollution. And British Airways plans to transform general and commercial waste into fuel.

Turning to smart destinations or Tourism Bureaus, eco-friendly solutions have started to appear all over the globe. Curitiba, a city in Brazil, has focused on sustainable urban development and established ways to reduce traffic, energy consumption, and pollution. Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, uses geothermal and hydropower to distribute heat and energy to the city. The Netherlands is looking to collect solar energy through bike paths.

Although many already-developed solutions aim for having an offline impact, companies can also turn to the online when seeking to highlight sustainable practices. A good starting point is to promote eco-friendly experiences within the overall online destination content offer. Also, having ways to categorize and filter these types of content will be a great way to incorporate sustainable tourism digitally.

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