When you think about it, “sustainable tourism” shouldn’t even be a thing. Tourism should have, from the very beginning, always paid respect to nature, to local communities, and to future travelers. But as it is, efforts to improve the way we travel and cater to travelers have become vital these recent years when climate change and marine debris are humanity’s most pressing concerns to date.
Sustainable travel is more than bringing your own straws and refusing plastic. It requires the cooperation and collaboration of every single person — of tourists, tourist guides, tourism boards, and, most especially, local government units. By being proactive advocates of conscious consumerism and the low-impact movement, we can help save the world from its destined ruin.
Here’s how we can make it work:
Tourists must make responsible travel choices
Sustainable tourism begins with us — the ones who explore the world yet harm it in the process. Prioritize local destinations instead of faraway countries to minimize your carbon footprint. Stay in sustainable hostels and B&Bs. Bring around your zero-waste travel kit. Respect natural resources and local communities by taking nothing and leaving nothing. Dispose your trash properly and take part in local initiatives. Help educate local communities on how to care for their environment, and travel consciously in a way that benefits and possibly enhances the place you’ll be in.
Local communities should be educated on the importance of caring for their environment
Proper education is the name of the game with sustainable travel, and it’s imperative for local communities to understand the impact of their own actions in the place they live in. Through initiatives, summits, and talks in schools, offices, and barangays, locals can learn the exact state of the world at the moment and what acts, no matter how simple, can save it — such as proper waste disposal and collection, lessening plastic waste in restaurants, stores, and resorts, and making use of local sources for their products and services.
More eco-conscious programs should be arranged
As previously mentioned, proper education is imperative to promote mindful living, conscious consumerism, and sustainable travel. Thus, more eco-conscious programs should be arranged to help inform stakeholders of what needs to be done to lower our impact on the environment. It can be something as simple as zero-waste fairs like The Good Trade conducted quarterly to help consumers easily make the switch to a zero-waste lifestyle, or community get-togethers that discuss different sustainability topics like MUNI PH’s MUNI Meet-ups.
It could also be something as grand as Cebu Pacific’s #JuanEffect movement, launched in August 2018 and again mid-January 2019 in Siargao Island in partnership with the DOT, DENR, DILG, and local government units. Through this effort, Cebu Pacific is able to help tourists and the local community practice proper waste disposal and collection with specially-made plastic bottle receptacles to be distributed across key locations in Siargao, as well as inspire and inform locals to continue being advocates of change through a colorful underwater-themed mural by rising artist and muralist Anina Rubio. And with the support of Juan Effect ambassadors Erwan Heussaff, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, and Kyle “Kulas” Jennerman, this movement can engage communities beyond Siargao so they too can pledge to be the change the world needs to see in their own areas.
Tour guides and tourism workers should educate their stakeholders
Being in the business of tourism demands even more responsibility in ensuring the environment is at its best shape and that visitors know how to respect it. Thus, organizing tours that veer away from mass tourism and, instead, promote the improvement of the livelihood of others, the protection of nature, and preservation of local culture is necessary so that tourists can be better educated about sustainable and community-based travel.
Airlines should be more active in the low impact movement
As the primary means of travel, airlines must also consider their contribution to the world’s waste. According to the International Air Transport Association, the average passenger “generates 1.4 kilograms of waste per flight, with the total amount of passenger waste for 2017 sitting at 5.7 tons.” every year from the plastic utensils and food containers they supply onboard.
Some airlines have started to cut down on their plastic usage as a result in the recent year. Portuguese Airline Hi Fly became the very first airline to conduct a plastic-free flight last December 26, 2018, replacing all plastic and single-use items with recyclable and compostable materials. Air New Zealand had previously announced that it has removed straws, coffee stirrers, toothbrushes, and plastic packaging off its lounges and aircrafts, and is eying to ban more in the coming year. Alaska Airlines and Delta have also begun scrapping its use of plastic straws. And locally, Cebu Pacific had also declared that it will start using bio-compostable utensils, biodegradable paper cups, and compostable wooden stirrers on all its flights.
NGOs must be vigilant on abuses being made to the environment
Plenty of non-government organizations are already actively calling out big companies and individuals who harm and abuse the environment and are leading simple initiatives like coastal cleanups and eco-brick collection. Their continued vigilance and initiative are vital in spreading awareness online and on-ground about these abuses and the actions we must take against them.
Government should implement policies geared towards sustainable development
Tourism relies heavily on government policies to operate. But the problem that usually arises with this relationship is that those in government view mass tourism and commercialism as an accomplishment, and thus regulations to limit this kind of growth aren’t properly observed. The government must be able to realize that it must urgently enforce policies that will help boost tourism but also encourage environmentally sustainable growth and create benefits for all its stakeholders.
Companies need to rethink the way they do business
Companies and big corporations need to understand the role they play in driving social change. It’s not about what will make them earn more profit now; rather, it’s about how they can enhance the livelihood of its stakeholders through greener, more sustainable ways. In reducing their waste, improving their work conditions, launching green initiatives, and limiting their carbon footprint, they would have made their mark on making the world a much better place.
What are your thoughts about how we can sustainable tourism work in the next few years? Share them in the comments section below!