World Environment Day 2021: Travel and tourism is an important part of people’s lives as it brings recreation and allows them to glimpse into a different kind of world. However, over the years, while the travel and tourism industry has thrived, reckless tourism practices have negatively impacted the environment. Now, people are concerned about how traveling practices might be contributing to the deteriorating state of the planet, and are looking for measures to ensure sustainable tourism. This has been revealed in a survey conducted by digital platform Agoda, the findings of which were released in its Sustainable Travel Trends Survey to mark the World Environment Day.
Sustainable travel refers to an increasingly popular concept which seeks to mix travel with practices that do not harm the environment. Usual travel practices that have been followed for years are not necessarily the most eco-friendly, like single-use bathroom amenities in most hotels, as balancing the safety of tourists with protection of environment is a tough line to tow. However, over the years, with rising awareness, tourists have also been calling for better practices from all stakeholders of travel and tourism, be it the industry, the authorities or the travellers themselves.
World Environment Day: Findings of the survey
The survey revealed that the top concerns among people in India regarding travelling were the pollution of beaches and waterways as well as overtourism. They were also concerned about the mass use of single-use plastic and energy inefficiencies. Accordingly, easily being able to identify sustainable eco-friendly options for travel was found to be top most preference of users as a measure to make travel more sustainable, followed by limiting the use of single-use plastic. Participants also believed that there needs to be in place a provision for financial incentives for those accommodation providers who take measures to maximise energy efficiencies. Apart from that, people also felt that there is a need to establish more protected areas so that the number of tourists can be limited, and removal of one-time use bathroom amenities is also an important measure to make travel sustainable.
Sustainable travel: Who is responsible?
As per the survey, people across the world held governments the most responsible for sustainable travel, with 24% of Indians believing this to be the case. 22% respondents in India cited tourism authorities as responsible, while 20% said that they themselves were responsible for ensuring sustainable travel.
Realistically speaking, to aid the tourism industry to shift towards sustainability, the efforts of all three stakeholders would be required as it is a joint effort and cannot be done in a vacuum by any one stakeholder. Governments would need to provide incentives to players to switch to more energy efficient practices, rewarding those who take the initiative and go the extra mile. They would also need to put in place certain rules to ensure sustainability. Meanwhile authorities would have to ensure at a micro level that the best sustainability practices are followed and that no one is flouting the rules. Meanwhile, tourists would have to play their part, like carrying their own toiletries for example, to minimise wastage. Tourists would also have to be the ones to hold industry players accountable for any wastage, as industry players would be motivated to switch from these traditional practices only when they see that they might lose customers if they do not switch to sustainable practices.
Travellers would also have to be responsible for minimising their waste, and for ensuring that they are not wasting electricity if it is not required, like leaving lights or fans or AC on even if they are leaving the room. The onus to look for eco-friendly accommodations would also fall on tourists, because this shift would make other accommodation providers make their services more eco-friendly.
Measures tourists can undertake for sustainable travel
Apart from managing waste, minimising single-use products and looking for eco-friendly accommodations, tourists can manage their carbon footprint by travelling via buses or trains rather than taking a cab, and can also reuse hotel amenities like beddings and towels instead of asking housekeeping to change these amenities every day during the stay. They can also attempt to boost local businesses and pick up litter when they visit places like beaches. Travellers can also request the hotels to not put bathroom amenities in their room and carry their own.