A Path to Sustainability in the Travel Industry
Climate change has been a hot topic in the recent decades. But while the economy recovered from the 2008 housing crisis and the Eurozone crisis, little was done to curb the CO2 emissions. The governments rather focused on the economic recovery.
It wasn’t until the Covid-19 pandemic when the governments have seriously started to heed the threats posed by the climate change. A sobering IPCC report, which has been issued earlier this year, provides a clearly gloomy outlook for the future, if the efforts to curtail CO2 emissions are to remain negligent.
Even today, more and more rivers in various countries from different continent — from China to France — are becoming drier every day. The climate change is damaging our environment, and it's clear that we have to do something about it.
The Travel Industry’s Dirty Secret
For many years, very few people mentioned that the travel industry is one of the main contributors to the rising global emissions. As the wealth of the households grew in many developing countries, so did the tourism – that was evident because of the persistent growth of the travel industry before the pandemic struck.
At the present time, the travel industry contributes to around 8% of the global emissions, according to sustainabletravel.org. This includes all types of carbon footprint, from plane flights and ferry rides to souvenir production. A large share of those CO2 emissions is coming from the wealthier, developed countries, with the United States being top of the list.
Indeed, transportation remains the key factor of CO2 emissions in the travel industry. Absolutely, the means of transportation – particularly planes, cars, buses, trains, and ferries – allow us to explore the world at a pace that has never been seen before. But, unfortunately, this fast-food-like travel leaves the planet with a hefty carbon footprint.
CO2 emissions from lodging are quite understandable – it is close to impossible to stay in-doors without air conditions in some countries. But the worrying trend is a rise of emissions caused by construction of tourist sites and facilities. In many cases, green areas are damaged or even liquidated to make the construction of these facilities possible.
Reducing The Indutry’s Carbon Footprint
Of course, it is obvious to everyone in the industry that the carbon footprint of tourism has to be reduced. Unless we achieve carbon neutrality in the travel industry, many of the tourist places we know nowadays and love to travel to will be lost forever, in the near future.
That is why we propose here relatively easy ways to cut down on CO2 emissions – something that can be done by anyone who travels.
Virtual travel, a new phenomenon enabled by modern technology, is one way to reduce carbon emissions. Instead of replacing in-person travel, virtual tourism is rather going to be a supplementary service, which allows customers to cut down on trips that can be avoided.
Virtual tours (or virtual experiences) are an easy way to discover new places or re-visit the places you’ve already been to. And the modern-day technology allows guides to stream videos from most locations in the world right to you, whereas you can enjoy, for example, a city tour from the comfort of your couch.
There are several crucial factors that make customers favor virtual tours over short trips. The first one is cost. You would pay much less if you buy a virtual tour than paying for tickets, accommodation, and all other expenses. Another factor is convenience: you need just to be at home to enjoy the tour and spend an hour or two of your time. After all, virtual travel significantly cuts down on carbon footprint: there are only CO2 emissions that are created by generating the electricity for your devices and the devices of your guide.
Besides, as the demand for virtual travel grows, a number of virtual tours is growing exponentially. A variety of available tour is mind-blowing – and their number and diversity will continue growing. For example, the Tour to the Viking Valley is a bestseller among customers.
Overall, virtual travel is not going to replace in-person travel. However, it allows us to cut down on unnecessary short trips, which generate a lot of carbon emissions while bring little value. In the future, mixed in-person and virtual tour products might become possible.
This is a trend that we, at our sister company Nordiva Tours, predicted back in 2017. More and more customers are thinking about how their trips affect the nature and the local communities. This trend isn’t diminishing, but rather growing.
You can join this trend as well. When you have to travel, do your best to cut down on the carbon footprint you emit. For example: if you travel from Madrid to Porto, consider taking a bus instead of a plane flight (and, as a bonus, visit a few other cities on your way to Porto).
It’s usually short trips that cause a large share of unnecessary, “avoidable” carbon footprint. How many times you have booked a return flight for a 2-day trip? It’s time to re-think how we travel. A dozen of such short trips may happen over the course of a year, and that makes a profound impact on the environment.
In this article about travel trends in 2021, we mentioned that longer trips that are closer to home are becoming more popular. However, the rise of remote work allows travelers to make longer trips to different continents, as well. So, instead of making multiple short trips to the same country/city over the course of a year, for instance, it might be a better idea to settle in that country for a few months. The rise of the gig economy only opens up more opportunities to this type of travel.
Ecotourism has been around for a while, but it wasn’t until recently that it became a topic of mainstream discussions about travel. Today, ecotourism is not considered a thing for freaks anymore. Today it’s fashionable and cool.
And such a change in the perception of ecotourism has allowed this category of travel industry to thrive. A huge number of ecotourism sites have popped up across the world in the recent years. You can reduce your carbon footprint by favoring such tours at least once in a few years.
Overall, outdoor travel and adventures have often been associated with nature-friendly attitude. Indeed, if done smartly, you can reduce your carbon footprint in travel while making your trips more exciting. Hiking (trekking), camping, cycling, swimming, running, ziplining, rafting are all exciting, but environmentally-friendly activities. Just find an activity you have a passion for!
Perhaps, you might have other ideas on how to cut down on carbon emissions? If so, join our page on LinkedIn or Facebook and leave your recommendations/comments there. We will be glad to get to know your thoughts about it!