Updated: Oct 8, 2021
By Pernille Schmidt-Kjærby
First, I would like to address the fact that sustainability in travel is about so much more than climate!
Seen in isolation, yes it would be great CO2-wise if we never flew again (or went by car, train, boat and so on).
It would, however, be a disaster for those countries most reliant on tourism. Without a steady influx of tourism revenue, many countries would face severe economic damage. And even more people would live in poverty without the possibility of making a living. If anything, Covid19 has made that very clear!
When talking about travel and sustainability it is my hope for the future that:
The travel industry will help support sustainable growth in the local communities.
Sustainable tourism being tourism the locals can “live off and live with”.
Travel agencies can help the travelers place their money with local businesses where the profit flows back into the local community. Travel agencies can also help travelers reflect upon their contribution to over(and under)tourism, and make people consider ‘where to’ - and when - they should travel. The agencies can help by promoting lesser-known cities, areas and destinations. And by encouraging off peak travel to help even out the mass-tourism and create a healthier tourist flow.
To restart tourism in a more even and sustainable way is also sustainability!
Tourism will help create value – both economic, social, and environmental – in the local communities
Tourism should help create jobs, develop local communities and at the same time be considerate of the environment. We should use tourism to support the local businesses to contribute to sustainable growth. It brings both travelers and the locals better experiences when the communities you visit also benefit - and gain profit - from your visit instead of just being spectators. The same goes for nature. We should use tourism to make the nature grow, instead of the opposite!
The goal being to secure that the places we visit are in a better condition when we leave than when we arrive!
We will all be more considerate and respect our surroundings when we travel
It is our responsibility both as travelers and travel agencies. We all know what not to do - and what we could do more off. Change often starts with the consumers asking for a change!
We have seen this happening with animal welfare – the travelers started asking for trips where animals were treated more humane and only “visited” in their natural surroundings. And today you will not find one travel agency in Denmark offering “elephant riding”, “dolphin shows” or visits at “tiger temples”. With a heavy consumer demand, behavior patterns WILL change over time and the business will have to adjust. It is hard for travel agencies to drive the chance without a demand. The change must come "from below". From all of us who loves traveling – also when it comes to sustainable options – the most important message being: Ask for it!