The Pandemic made our lives locked away from the outside world. Yet, with the vaccine out of grasp, the best thing to do is to stay at home. By these, some of us might have been hyped of going outside. Others may have planned their next travel destination when everything is good to go. However, as the world resets everything in our lives—less air pollution, less mobilization, etc. —we should also consider resetting ourselves in the way we fill our desires outside our homes.
Spending time away from home in pursuit of relaxation, recreation and pleasure is tourism. So, it is basically “people travelling for fun”. In 2017, Travel & Tourism’s direct, indirect and induced impact accounted for $ 8.3 trillion contribution to the world’s GDP growing at 4.6 %, much faster than the economy as a whole (3% growth). The sector also employs 7 million new jobs (1 in 5 of all new jobs across the world) –clearly playing its role as a driver of prosperity. Its significant role in each country is vital for its economic progress. It also upholds veering effect towards our environment.
Tourism extends into various sectors such as Transportation (airline industry, car rental, water transport, coach services, railway as well as spacecraft), Accommodation (hotels, shared accommodation, hostels, camping, bed & breakfast, cruises, farmhouse accommodation or agri-tourism and time-share accommodation), Food and Beverages (restaurant, catering, bars & café, nightclubs), Entertainment (casino, tourist information, shopping, tourist guides & tours) and Connected Industry (financial services, travel agents, tour operator, online travel agent (OTAs), tourism organization and education). For the past years, such sectors are also linked in some negative impacts towards the environment such as soil erosion, increased pollution, discharges into the sea, natural habitat loss, increased pressure on endangered species and heightened vulnerability to forest fire . So, being a tourist plays a vital role on how we spend ourselves towards the environment –some with positive but mostly is negative impacts. Enter sustainable tourism.
Sustainable Tourism may be a big word but it is always at hand. Sustainable Tourism, according to World Tourism Organization (WTO), is “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities” . Tourism can be in different forms and sustainable tourism is applicable to all forms of tourism in all types of destinations, including mass tourism and various niche tourism segments.
Thus, sustainable tourism should:
- Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
- Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
- Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.
Achieving sustainable tourism in a large scale spectacle is too hard to achieve by a single individual. It should require the informed participation of various stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building. Yet, being a sustainable tourist in a micro perspective is one of a best practice to promote sustainability in tourism industry.
How to become a Sustainable Tourist?
The place you visit is someone’s home. It is important to respect the place and opt leaving like you first arrive. Being a sustainable tourist can be applied to everyone and it is just easy.
Here are ways that you can try:
- Plan Ahead
“For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today” –African Proverb
If previous travel experience you don’t do planning, you might consider it now. By planning ahead, take an in-deep research on your destination and alternative way to travel with less environmental impact. Take into account the things you will be bringing including sustainable and zero-waste products. If possible, it is better to have a checklist on what are necessary to bring and what are not. Planning ahead also includes which hotel is best suited for you. Look for eco-friendly hotels that promote sustainable tourism through sustainable practices.
- Reduce Carbon Footprint.
The tourism industry’s carbon footprint around the planet grew by 15% from 3.9 to 4.5 gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxide. It is important to take account of your carbon footprint to know the carbon emission you produce and how much will you offset. A carbon offset is a reduction in emission of carbon or other greenhouse gases made and compensate it elsewhere. Knowing your carbon emission will give you insights on which aspect of your lifestyle you’re going to change. Other means of offsetting your carbon is by planting trees, joining clean-ups, donating to organizations that promote protection and conservation of the environment, etc.. Even spreading environmental awareness and encourage someone to change their lifestyle for the environment is one way of offsetting your carbon.
From now on, you might consider your footprint every time you travel. You can calculate your carbon footprint here: https://offset.climateneutralnow.org/footprintcalc
- Apply Leave No Trace Principle
Many of us wanted to get involve in outdoor adventures after this pandemic. Yet, outdoor activities also yield several impacts towards the environment. Good thing there is an ethics that can guide us and enjoy the outdoors responsibly, the Leave No Trace (LNT) Principle. It is most commonly abided by responsible mountaineers and adventurers. LNT is a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors that consists of seven principles: plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surface, dispose waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife and be considerate of other visitors.
For a normal, let’s start instilling this principle in our daily adventure. To know more about the Leave no Trace Principle, feel free to read it here:
- Practice Green Fins
If talking travel destination, beaches and sea will never be absent in our list. It is because waters helps us release stress and soothes our mind after a stressful quarantine period. On the place where we can feel freedom, we can still practice being a sustainable tourist.
When diving, snorkeling, swimming or any water or beach activities, always consider the Green Fin’s guideline. Green Fins, similar to LNT, is an approach to sustainable marine tourism activities operating in South East Asia, Caribbean and the Indian Ocean that works with business operators, communities and governments. It helps to implement environmental standards for the diving and snorkeling industry through a code of conduct to have less environmental impact towards marine life.
- Choose Sustainable Products
Our consumerism deters the demands that manufacturers look upon in making products. As a tourist we tend to become consumers as well but it’s neither a problem. By choosing sustainable products we could decrease our demand to those products that creates huge impact towards our environment.
In seafood, for example, do not choose seafood which is a product from illegal exploitation and overfishing. Choose a sustainable one. Meat consumption is also unhealthy –both—in human health and towards the environment . If possible stick to plant-based diets.
As tourist, we also love to prize our wander with a thing for remembrance. Avoid choosing illegal exploited and traded products such as shell like turtle shells. When buying one, you are just driving them to illegally exploit more wildlife. If possible choose eco-friendly products without or less impact from the environment.
- Respect other Culture
“Respect begets respect”
If you want others to respect you, give them what you wanted for yourself. No matter your personal opinions, as a tourist you willingly step into the cultures and traditions of each new place you visit. You are a guest in this person’s community, the rules and traditions often hold great significance in their lives — you must willingly travel from a place of respect.
There are local communities around the world that cares so much the environment. So, be careful when travelling and generating waste. You might end-up with a bad reputation. You can also give an offering or buy local products. That way you did not only support help the locals but also showing a sign of your respect to them.
- Protect Heritage Site
The place you have visited was already visited by others for years and will be visited by the next generation. As a tourist, you play a significant role in capturing the economic characteristics of heritage and harness these for conservation by generating funding, educating the community and influencing policy. It is an essential part of many national and regional economies and can be an important factor in development, when managed successfully.
The Philippines’ Tubbataha Reef Natural Park and Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan and Rice Terraces in Ifugao are just some of the natural wonders of UNESCO World Heritage. It is important to preserve its natural beauty so that the future generation can benefit and being a sustainable tourist is a key role in doing it.
- Support local Tourism
Why travel far and spend more when you can enjoy local with a cheap expense but with a world-class experience? Supporting local tourism is one way of being a sustainable tourist because you don’t only need to travel far and increase your carbon footprint but you also save money for another plan. A top of that, you are also helping your home country’s economy by contributing to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the Philippines, tourism accounts about 7% of the country’s GDP which holds a total of 20% of total employment in 2016.
One might not know it, but there are places locally which are far better or similar with foreign travel destination. With friends, the place is not the issue –be it local or international—memories is what always matter, of course, in a sustainable way.
Our world’s tourism plays a vital role in procuring negative impact to our environment and it is also important in addressing or perhaps eliminating those. That, if every single tourist around the world will act responsibly and live sustainably. Also, with the firm grip of the authority in implementing the laws and full cooperation of all stakeholders. There are various ways in becoming a sustainable tourist and what was written above are just some. Nonetheless, it has the same goal –to create lesser impact towards our environment for the future generation to enjoy the beauty of what we have today.
In this current crisis, may we reflect back to the bad practices we did in the past and make sure to never commit it again. We have given months to contemplate what we have done. Now, it is time for a better normal –a citizen with a sustainable way of living—a sustainable tourist.
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