After almost coming to a standstill during the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism is bouncing back. This is good news for many workers and businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors, but it could be bad for the planet.
Around 2 billion people travel each year for tourism. Travel and tourism connect people and bring the world closer through shared experiences, cultural awareness and community building. It provides jobs, spurs regional development, and is a key driver for socio-economic progress.
However, there is often a downside. Many popular destinations are threatened by increasing pollution, environmental hazards, damage to heritage sites and overuse of resources. And that is without factoring in the pollution caused by travel to and from these destinations, according to UN News.
We have some tips for you though, on what you can do to avoid some of the damages
Say no to single-use plastics
Often used for less than 15 minutes, single-use plastic items can take more than 1,000 years to break down. Many of us are switching to sustainable options in our daily lives, and we can take the same attitude when we are travelling. By choosing reusable bottles and bags wherever you go, you can help ensure there is less plastic waste in the ocean and other habitats.
Use water wisely
On the whole, tourists use far more water than local residents. With a growing number of places experiencing water scarcity, the choices you make can help ensure people have adequate access to water in the future. By foregoing a daily change of sheets and towels during hotel stays, we can save millions of litres of water each year.
When you buy local, you help boost the local economy, benefit local communities, and help reduce the destination’s carbon footprint from transporting the goods. This is also true at mealtimes, so enjoy fresh, locally-grown produce every chance you get.
Find an ethical tour operator
Tour operations involve people, logistics, vendors, transportation and much more. Each link in the chain can impact the environment – positively or negatively. If you prefer to leave the planning to someone else, be sure to pick an operator that prioritizes the environment, uses resources efficiently and respects local culture.
Don’t share food with wildlife
Sharing food with wildlife or getting close enough to do so increases the chances of spreading diseases like cold, flu and pneumonia from humans to animals. Also, when animals get used to receiving food from humans, their natural behavior is altered, and they become dependent on people for survival. In some cases, it can also lead to human-animal conflict.
Don’t hunt or eat them either!
By creating the demand, consuming endangered or exotic animals leads to an increase in poaching, trafficking and exploitation of animals. Besides the harm done to the individual animal on your plate, irresponsible dining can contribute to the extinction of species already threatened by climate change and habitat loss. Keep this in mind when shopping for souvenirs as well, and steer clear of products made from endangered wildlife.
Share a ride
Transportation is a major contributor to the carbon footprint from tourism. Instead of private taxis, explore using public transportation like trains, buses and shared cabs. You can also ride a bicycle, which offers a convenient and much cheaper way to explore and learn about a place.
Do a homestay
Staying with a local resident or family is a nature-friendly option that allows you to get up close and personal with local culture and customs. Staying at local homestays can uplift communities by providing income while giving you a peek into different ways of life.
Study your destination
Before you travel, educate yourself about your destination. Doing so will allow you to better immerse yourself in local traditions and practices and appreciate things that might have gone unnoticed otherwise. With the right information, you can explore a destination in a more sensitive manner and surprise yourself with new adventures and discoveries.
Visit national parks, sanctuaries
Exploring nature and wildlife through national parks is an intimate way to learn about the animals and their ecosystems first-hand. In some cases, your entrance fee supports conservation efforts that protect species and landscapes and preserve these natural spaces for future visitors to enjoy.
Don’t leave a trace
You can make a mark by not leaving a mark on your vacation destination. Put garbage in its place, and don’t remove or alter anything without permission.