According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals grew by a remarkable 4% in 2019 to 1.5 billion last year. COVID-19 has highlighted the effect of over tourism in certain cities, making travelers question where and how they should travel when they book their next trip. So the question is, how do we ensure that tourism can be maintained long-term without causing harm to natural and cultural environments?
Seeking vacation ideas? Have you considered staying local? By traveling by train, bus, or as a group in a car, you’ll produce up to 50% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and help to stimulate the local economy. Check out our full guide to road tripping California using only public transport.
Try to fly less often, or consider driving for short trips. If you’re flying, opt to fly non-stop and in coach when possible, and buy carbon offsets. Carbon offsets are available through some airlines, else you can buy them from alternative organizations.
Buy only from companies that have sustainable practices and don’t harm the environment. If you buy local, you're already reducing the mileage of the products you're buying. If you’re traveling in the summer or to beachy location, opt for Indosole instead of Havaianas. Buy goods with minimal packaging when you are travelling, and ensure you're always carrying your own water bottle. Check out these items if you're packing a sustainable suitcase for your next trip.
Don’t print your boarding pass or hotel reservations. When checking in, pull it up on your phone instead. Decline paper receipts from establishments when you can.
In the United States, about 67% of total electricity generation was produced from fossil fuels in 2016². Travelers can save electricity by turning appliances off completely when not in use. An obvious example is to turn off the lights and AC or heat when you’re leaving your accommodation. But you should also turn off your computer, and all appliances including microwaves, kettles, etc. Hang your towels or otherwise indicate that you don’t need them changed daily. Bring your own toiletries regardless if you’re staying in a hotel, hostel, or Airbnb.
Want to take home souvenirs or experience a new country through their food? By supporting neighborhood businesses, you’re helping keep people employed, and preventing trucks from driving far distances. When at a restaurant and ordering seafood, be sure to ask if they serve sustainable seafood. Download the Seafood Watch app to locate or share businesses that serve sustainable seafood. Bring your own bag when you shop, and pass on plastic bags.
Increase Your Step Count
Bike, walk, or take public transport when you can. Save car trips for when you’ve got a big group. Many cities now have bike-sharing programs which make it easy for tourists to rent bicycles!
Energy Efficiency, at Home and Away
Make sure your establishment has energy efficient heating and cooling technology. To do this at home, replace old appliances with energy-efficient models and light bulbs. Install solar panels if possible (it will also help reduce your electricity bill!). Adjust the thermostat to be lower in winter and higher in summer. Add a carpet or rug - it will help keep your accommodation warm without increasing your energy expenditure. Let your towels and bedsheets dry naturally instead of using a dryer. Make sure the load is full when you're running the washing machine, too.
As a host, you have a responsibility too. Here are a few of the ways you can help guests to shrink their footprint.
Stop issuing paper receipts and send them by email instead. Outfit bathrooms with towels instead of paper.
Have recycling bins for paper, plastic, glass and aluminium as well as composting bins available for your guests, and make sure they're easy to use.
Where possible, work with partners who are aiming to support the environment too - this might mean eco-toilet paper, laundry detergent and cleaning supplies.