When thinking about how to reduce our carbon footprints, one of the simplest ways to cut back on emissions is to fly less often. But for those who want to see the world, there are ways to make trips more sustainable, including where you go, what you pack and how you decide to get there.
UN World Tourism Organization’s holistic definition of sustainable tourism:
“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.”
Throughout the past two years, the pandemic has changed people, their priorities, their preferences and their passions. As the focus for many shifts away from the four walls of their homes to the four corners of the world, people desire reconnection and travel and do so in a more sustainable way.
Sustainability has been a focal point of the hospitality industry
Sustainability has been a focal point of hospitality industry companies well before the events of the past two years influenced consumers’ mindsets. Everything from sustainable menu offerings and building design, to driving broader accessibility of eco-friendly products and devices, like digital keys and EV charging stations.
According to a recent study by travel company Virtuoso, four in five people (82%) said the pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly in the future. Almost three-quarters (72%) said travel should support local communities and economies, preserve destinations’ cultural heritage and protect the planet.
“Sustainable travel will have to cost more if it must reduce its carbon footprint.” – Says Dr. Srikanth Beldona
Let’s have a look at some sustainable tourism trends we expect this year and actions you can take:
1. Away from the Masses
People have missed travel, are cautious with ongoing transmissions but feel safe with social distancing. The industry and World Travel and Tourism Council have done huge work to ensure and reassure global protocols for “Safe Travels” common standards of health and safety, for transport, hubs, accommodations, tour operators, attractions, hospitality and insurance.
Concerns may centre on the confined space of aeroplanes, but the risk of onboard transmission in the cabin is very low, as the air quality is better than in most indoor environments for several reasons: passengers face the same direction, seatbacks act as barriers, and the air is very clean. Plus of course, passengers should take their anti-infection measures: wear masks, clean hands frequently, and sneeze/cough into a bent elbow or tissue.
2. Select an Appropriate Destination
How far will you need to travel? Most forms of transport contribute to climate change. To minimize your holiday emissions, choose a destination closer to home and/or one you can reach by transport other than a plane. Look at eco-tourism options. Many travel companies now offer holidays that support sustainable development, do not impact negatively on the environment, and provide financial support to local communities.
3. Support The Local Economy
Even though so much money is spent on tourism, most of the dollars spent leak out of the actual travel destination. Instead, they make their way back to big global, corporate tourism operators. This is a depressing statistic given the significant (mostly) positive impact tourism can have on a local destination.
To help benefit the local communities you travel to:
- Eat and shop locally
- Stay in local preferably eco-friendly accommodation
- Travel with local transport providers
- Consider bike or walking tours.
- If you’re on the water, sail instead of taking a power-engine boat.
- Renting a car? Consider electric, or at least the smallest vehicle that suits your family’s needs.
- Take public transit where possible. This is also a great way to meet local people.
- Try carsharing, which can save money and emissions.
- Consider activities that combine experience with environmental benefits, such as beach clean-ups.
4, On-Property Hotel Details That Make a Difference
As the hotel industry reduces single-use plastics, travellers are embracing changes that provide access to innovative, sustainably-minded solutions, such as reusable water bottles, digital keys and bulk bathroom amenities. Like, Digital Key enables guests to use their smartphones as room keys at more than 81 per cent of the company’s 6,800-plus hotels worldwide. The company delivers more than one million Digital Keys to guests each month.
These shifts have also taken place on the roads. According to a survey by KPMG, 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030 are expected to be electric vehicles, with 71% of Americans admitting they would like to own an EV. With EV chargers available at more than 1,400 Hilton locations worldwide and growing, eco-conscious travellers can plan low-emissions road trips with more ease and convenience by utilizing a new filter to search and book hotels with EV chargers.
When sustainability combines with creativity, it can produce a true one-of-a-kind experience. Hilton London Bankside is home to London’s first vegan hotel suite, offering the latest vegan-friendly innovations, including a headboard hewn from pineapple leaves and a bamboo floor.
5. Elevating Sustainable Dining
The farm-to-table movement is here to stay. Travellers are gravitating toward establishments that source local ingredients, have partnerships with sustainable farms and highlight indigenous cuisine and regional flavours. Some hotels are even maintaining their on-site produce and herb gardens to redefine what “local” means for their culinary and cocktail programs while also addressing food waste.
Sustainable cooking methods are another way that restaurants are embracing eco-friendly dining. At SUMMIT the Rooftop at Conrad Washington D.C., Chef Josh Murray uses a solar oven to cook the restaurant’s House Pork BBQ, one of his popular eco-conscious culinary expressions. Such innovative solutions, a solar dehydrator, and continuing working toward a zero-waste kitchen – yet another step closer to the eco-friendly experience that travellers are seeking.
Once You’ve Chosen Your Destination:
- Use an eco-friendly booking site for accommodation. Sites calculate your carbon footprint per night based on your selection and include eco-friendly ratings. Choose accommodation that injects money back into the local economy.
- Consider using a sustainable travel agent. Companies can take out some of the legwork by organizing trips and activities for you that consider environmental and social impact.
- Look for a system of verification. This will help you determine if a business is simply greenwashing, or has met standards set by sustainability councils.
- Seek out local experiences. Homestays, local guides and programs that give back to communities are also good ways to ensure your money is injected back into the local economy.
Keep in mind that “not every destination has eco-certified accommodations which are why it is also up to travellers to pay close attention,”
As sustainable travel intentions grow, travellers are still looking for ways to more easily fulfil these ambitions. 40 per cent said that online booking sites offering a sustainable or eco-friendly filter option would help, while 32 per cent continue to call for an international standard for identifying eco-friendly accommodations.
It’s clear that going into 2022, people want to travel to leave a smaller footprint and make a bigger impact on the world around them. For more insight on how the hospitality industry is innovating for the eco-friendly traveller