The ability to travel is a gift that should be used wisely. In order for future generations to be able to explore the world and enjoy all it has to offer, we now have to be thinking very differently about how we travel around the world. One of the ways we can do this is by considering sustainable travel both when booking holidays and arriving at our destinations. You may have heard of the expression, ‘take only pictures, leave only footprints’. This is the grounding of sustainable travel, but it does go much deeper.
So, what is sustainable travel?
The term ‘sustainable travel’ is defined by The World Tourism Organisation as “management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems.”
Put simply, sustainable travel means travelling responsibly, considering the long-term and short-terms needs of the area you’re visiting.
What problems have been caused?
There are plenty of examples from around the world. From traditional fishing villages being turned into huge holiday complexes, such as those in Benidorm, to beaches being polluted by tourists in Kenya, the negative impact from tourists is widespread across the globe.
Another example is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Eighty-five per cent of the 1.8 million tourists who visit the reef are concentrated in the two main areas: Cairns and Whitsunday islands (which themselves are only home to around one hundred and thirty thousand people). Understandably, this has a huge impact on the infrastructure of the area, from over-pollution from transport, to permanent damage to the Great Barrier itself. Over the decades, damage from tourist boats dropping anchors on the reef, people touching the reef itself and even suntan lotion and sweat have caused serious damage to the natural habitat.
What can I do?
When you are travelling, there are certain questions you can ask yourself to help you become more responsible, and therefore creating a sustainable environment for future generations of holiday-makers and travellers to enjoy.
When you are on holiday, ask yourself:
- Does this business cater only for tourists?
- What type of food is on offer? Traditional meals from the region or standard fast food, available anywhere in the world?
- What type of alcohol do the bars sell? Locally sourced beers? Or imports?
- If you’re holiday destination is on the coast, consider the seafood restaurants. Do you think there is a risk of over-fishing in the area?
- What type of souvenirs can you buy? Are they hand-crafted by the locals or is it plastic and generic?
Other things to consider
You will also need to think about your impact on the community if you have an accident. Unfortunately, accidents and illnesses abroad are a way of life and being protected gives you the peace of mind that you won’t have huge sums of money to pay out in the event of an accident. If you are a frequent traveller, it’s worth investing in multi-trip insurance.
It also makes things much easier for your host country, who can organise payment for your treatment without any hassle. You wouldn’t drive your car without any insurance, so make sure you’re travelling responsibly abroad too.
Don’t feel as though you can’t enjoy your holiday. You can. Just make sure you are taking into consideration the needs of the locals too. After all, you are travelling in their home and just because you’re on holiday doesn’t mean that they are too.