Glance over travel imagery in brochures, on social media feeds, and travel sites, and it is hard to believe just how impactful the travel industry is on the environment. Is the Travel Industry Doing Enough to Go Green? Those beaches appear pristine; the mountains so rugged and wild. However, our endeavors to see more, and to experience more of the planet’s wonders are making their mark in a spectacular fashion.
Take the natural and land resources depleted by a constant influx of tourists, as an example. Water, energy, and raw materials are used at an alarming rate, placing considerable strain on local communities that struggle to absorb this financial impact. Then there’s the air pollution and noise contributed by the industry.
Tourism is responsible for approximately 60% of air travel, which leaves so much more than contrails in its wake. Perhaps most devastating are the physical impacts of tourism, including solid waste and littering, construction, aesthetical pollution, deforestation and marine habitat devastation, and the alteration of ecosystems.
Sure, we’re able to acknowledge the symptoms as part of our desire to travel further, and faster, but can the industry manage, and reverse the toll they are taking on our planet?
Travel Industry Doing Enough to Go Green?
Going through the motions of sustainable travel
There are numerous ways to remain environmentally friendly during your next stay abroad, such as walking and cycling, taking shorter, cooler showers, and paying attention to the energy that you’re using to power your accommodation, or charge your gadgets.
It’s also possible to support the local economy while you save the world, simply by sourcing locally grown and manufactured products. The industry has a lot to learn if it’s to earn, and maintain a green badge of honor.
Yes… An emphasis on green hospitality
Green hospitality, and sustainable luxury, has become the latest frontier in luxury travel; we don’t just want to bear witness to the world and its wonders any more, but preserve as much of our planet as we can when we travel.
As the green travel trend gains traction, so too do the efforts of the travel industry to conduct business as responsibly as possible. The travel industry is becoming increasingly aware of its impact on our environment, and now has the opportunity to make a huge difference to communities, the people residing in popular destinations, and those employed by the industry via the $1.2-trillion it contributed to the world’s economy last year alone.
No… Reducing the travel industry’s paper trail
The paper and pulp industry use more water energy than any other sector, and contributes to air and land pollution by way of escaping gases and waste paper. Using paper for booking confirmation, travel guides, tickets and boarding passes, and official documentation amongst other things, the travel industry still has a long way to go before it can reduce its paper footprint.
Technology has come a long way towards providing solutions, including the ability to produce and sign documentation, and manage digital transactions via computer, mobile or tablet device.
Currently chaired by entrepreneur and philanthropist Keith Krach, DocuSign does just that, processing more than 150-million signatures in just ten years; empowering travelers, and the industry by way of digital signatures and transactions, DocuSign is heading the crusade to banish the travel industry’s paper trail. The industry still has a long way to go until it is completely paperless, though.
Yes… An alternative to fuel pollutants
According to an article published in New Scientist the contrails, or condensation trails, left behind by airplanes are far more sinister than they might, at first, appear. Climate change researchers have come to the conclusion that contrails have contributed to global warming far more than aircraft greenhouse emissions, which themselves are scarring the Earth’s atmosphere.
While researchers busy themselves with ways that airplanes could reduce the effects of their contrails, greener and cleaner jets that use eco-friendly fuel substitutes have been in development since 2016. Many commercial airlines already use biofuels, in fact. It would appear that the industry is willing to accept the effects of airline travel, and invest in change.
No… Continued loss of habitat
While the travel industry is not solely responsible for the global loss of habitat, there can be little denying that the growing number of people exploring the world, and the rise in popularity of marine tourism are taking their toll on the environment – and the animals that populate those habitats.
The effects of land degradation and pollution, and the depletion of natural resources have been steadily rising as the travel industry expands its reach; the planet will one day have to say that enough is enough, as delicate ecosystems and species suffer the consequences of tourism.
By way of systematic planning and safeguarded practices the travel industry has the opportunity to protect such habitats, and support local people; it’s time for a global conversation.
The answer to this article’s titular question is a resounding ‘no’, although that’s not for the industry’s want of trying. You need only look at the points contained within this piece to know that the travel industry IS making leaps towards becoming greener.
From turning its attention towards sustainability to inspiring travelers to approach their adventures more responsibly, the concept of tourism is changing radically before our eyes.
2017 became the UN’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development; here’s hoping that the travel industry extends that title to include the years, decades, and even centuries ahead.