Sustainable travel. What a magical phrase, a phrase we have fallen in love with over the last couple of months. We believe sustainable travel is the future and in our opinion the only way to travel.
We have traveled for 12 months, experienced wonders of the world, tasted a variety of cultures, found solitude in nature and had one hell of a journey. But if there has been one thing we have learned during this time, it’s just how precious our planet is. While tourism is incredible for an economy, it comes at a cost. We have seen time and time again nature, culture and history being exploited for the traveller and their Instagram selfie.
This may seem hypocritical, given that we are also enthused travellers, ready to explore the world, camera in hand. But over time, we have lost the passion for the popular tourist spots and often feel a sense of guilt reaching for our camera. We have witnessed how disconnected people have become whilst in these places. It now seems more common to see a selfie stick in hand instead of a guide book.
As well as the the disconnection from nature, history and landmarks; there is also our fragile environment to consider. As tourism becomes more of a commodity our environment comes under even more pressure. There’s no denying C02 emissions from flights are one of the most detrimental factors from travelling.
‘Binge flying’ is becoming even more popular as time, money and desire to travel also increases. The International Air Transport Association estimates that by 2050, the tourism industry will be contributing to 40% of global carbon emissions. The reason for this, is that the number of tourists and the distance travelled is increasing.
Secondary to this, is the amount of plastic pollution we experience… everywhere! Single use plastic has littered landmarks, beaches and national parks, more than we ever expected.
Furthermore, we’ve seen animals being disturbed in their natural habitat by countless jeeps and worst of all, heart breakingly, we hear of animals being exploited for the benefit of the tourist.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the disconnection we’ve observed between people. We are travellers, passers by and the communities we travel to welcome us with open arms.
However, hotel resorts create a ‘secluded, safe dream holiday’ which has created a barrier between the holiday goer and local Guest House. Western style restaurants may be able to provide home comforts but mean we miss the home-cooked dinner from the local market vendor.
Respecting local heritage and culture is imperative. We believe immersing yourself in the heritage and culture is where the magic and stories lie.
As the world becomes more (wifi) connected we are becoming more disconnected when it comes to travel and tourism. It’s great that now, more than ever, we have access to the rest of the world. It’s also great that platforms can be used to inspire the day-dreaming tourist. But we believe we need to preserve tourism and our connection to the world. Which is why sustainable travel is more important than ever.
What is sustainable travel?
Being environmentally conscious while travelling is important, but it’s not the only thing to consider. You can be as green-as-green but not actually sustainable.
Sustainable travel has been defined by the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) as “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”.
The concept of sustainable travel actually falls under three pillars; environmental, economical and socio-culture.
Tourism has to consider all three factors to be deemed sustainable travel.
Employing environmental friendly practices while travelling is of course important, think reduce, reuse and recycle. As well as reducing your carbon footprint, it is also important to consider the preservation of the places you are visiting. This is important for natural environments (beaches, rainforests, waterfalls, national parks) and built environments (historic landmarks and ruins). Environmental sustainability means resources are preserved for future generations.
As tourism starts to increase in an area, it is important that cultural exchanges and local traditions are respected and preserved. As tourism increases in an area, there can often be social and cultural conflicts of interest so it’s important to focus on promoting positive relationships. The best way to do this is to introduce the local community to the tourism industry. By integrating with the locals allows a more authentic and profound experience. It allows us to act with compassion and integrate into the local way of life.
The final pillar, can be argued as one of the more influential factors. As sustainable travellers, this means we use our money to benefit the local community instead of foreign investors. We can do this, by supporting local-run home-stays, restaurants and tour operators.
Join the movement with us
Our planet has finite resources and our natural world is at the mercy of human consumption and demand. Culture and heritage should be protected for the next generation to experience.
Sustainable travel includes raising awareness about caring for the environment and supporting ethical wildlife tourism. It is connecting with those we meet, who work to make our experience memorable. Sustainable travelling is supporting the local people and economy.
We are in no way perfect at this but we believe we should act with compassion in everything we do. Our planet, culture and heritage should be preserved so future generations can enjoy this beautiful thing called life. Sustainable travel should be the only way we travel.
More to come.