All of us want and like to travel.
Especially after two, or for some of us even more, years of pandemic and lockdowns.
In this short blog we will try to mention a few steps on how to make your holiday at least a bit more eco-friendly. All of us have a small impact. And together we can definitely have a great eco-friendly travel impact.
Those who want to observe the largest sequoia trees in the world have to fly many hours to California. There they rent a car, stay in a hotel and drink water from a plastic bottle. In the end, we all love nature and the world is dear to our hearts, but along the way we pollute the earth.
Julia Simpson, who heads the “World Travel and Tourism Council” (WTTC), is well aware of the contradiction we all face. Tourists who travel in nature are environmentalists and the vast majority want to do good to the planet and be eco-friendly. On the other hand, planes, ships, hotels, cars, restaurants – all of these cause environmental damage.
The biggest question facing those involved in tourism now is how to reconcile this contradiction. How to enjoy the benefits of tourism mainly in employment and economy without paying the environmental price. How to encourage people to travel without causing damage to the environment. And at least, how to do it with minimal damage and a bit of eco-friendliness. And what about feelings of guilt? In many ways, in solving this question lies the future of the entire field. If tourists feel guilty – they may give up on the next trip or at least be sustainable minded.
Some problematic facts
Annual emission of carbon dioxide per capita in Israel is 10 tons. That is 27 kg per day
On a round-trip flight from London to Bangkok, each passenger is responsible for emitting 1754 kg of carbon dioxide
In a six-day cruise, each passenger is responsible for emitting 1600 kg of carbon dioxide
A guest who stays for six days in a luxury hotel is responsible for emitting 342 kg of carbon dioxide. That’s way too much carbon dioxide….
The organization headed by Simpson represents private businesses in the field of tourism from around the world. Its members include the major hotel chains. Also small and local hotels and hostels, airlines, cruise lines, car rental companies, travel agents and other non-governmental entities that engage in tourism and make a living from it. Their activity is designed to settle the contradiction, to dispel the guilt, to prove that it is possible to do an eco-friendly travel, so that we all continue to travel. Eco-friendly travel.
This year, WTTC deals with three main topics. The ability of hotels to minimize their impact on the environment, a road map to reduce the carbon footprint of travelers and help for wildlife entitled “Nature Positive Travel”.
Simpson says that a tenth of the jobs in the world are related to the field of tourism in its various aspects. These are jobs at all levels of employment, at different salary levels and at various career stages. This figure includes plane captains and waiters, maids and hotel managers, bus drivers in Turkey and the owner of a small hostel in Japan. “We need to appreciate the strength and scope of such an employment force, especially in young economies,” she says.
Israel as an example
We choose Israel as an example, an OECD country.
Simpson is well aware of the figures in Israel, where tourism revenues reached 7.3$ billion in 2019. Each tourist in Israel spends about 1600$. Tourism generates about 78 thousand jobs in the Israeli labor market. About 40 thousand Israelis are employed in hotels. Other jobs produced by tourism are in restaurants, among guides, drivers, workers of national sites and museums. Tourism creates many jobs in the periphery and for many workers without an academic education.
Growth in Israel is fast. The most basic thing in the hotel world is that if you own a small hotel it is easy to think that you have no influence on a broad issue such as sustainability. The initial goal is to explain also to small and independent hotels, which do not belong to a large chain, how they can act for the environment and sustainability. Their guests will make them aware of the issue anyway. In the current situation, tourists will boycott places that do not protect the environment. Young travelers are demanding eco-friendliness and sustainability. Those who are involved in tourism and want to survive must be at the forefront of the environmental issue and think eco-friendly, how to refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle.
Small vs big
Simpson says that “From our point of view as an organization, it seems that the large hotel chains and the leading airlines today have a huge awareness of environmental issues. They compete among themselves to see who is more sustainable and eco-friendly. The problem is in the small companies, in the local hotels, in those who say to themselves, ‘What importance and influence do I have?’ — to whom we turn. They need to change their thinking and understand that if they do not deal with the environmental issue, in reducing the damage of tourists, they will not survive in the future economic competition.”
The 12 criteria
WTTC offers 12 essential actions for hotels that want to be eco-friendly. According to Simpson, these are actions that every hotel should take, regardless of its size or the financial constraints it faces, and recommends adopting eight of the 12 criteria already in the coming year. “We have no interest in shaming those who are not engaged in to it,” explains Simpson. “The basis is a clear presentation of data. You cannot control what you cannot count. If a hotel manager knows how much electricity and how much water the hotel uses, he can plan how to reduce the amounts and help eco-friendly travel.
The first four actions are accurate measurement. They consistent reduction of electricity consumption, measurement and reduction of water consumption, reduction of the amount of garbage and measurement and reduction of carbon dioxide amounts. The next six actions are longer use of sheets and towels, environmentally friendly cleaning agents, expanding the use of herbal products, stopping the use of disposable utensils, stopping the use of plastic bottles and recycling. The last two actions are creating profit for the community and reducing inequality.
A major key in the process, according to Simpson, is the vigilance of the guests. She urges everyone who stays at the hotel to pay attention to the environmental details. You can ask that the towels should not be changed every day. Ask why disposable dishes are used and if used why not biodegradable plates and dishes made from Areca leaf. Then ask why the giant buffets waste huge amounts of food, why are there no vegan and vegetarian meals. Ask where are the compost bins, why are there so many unnecessary small shampoo bottles and much more.
A bit more
“It goes without saying. Anyone who is involved in tourism must understand – the guests will boycott him if he does not protect the environment. Hence, the answer is not to the question of how much I influence or how much the small country influences. It is the understanding that there is no alternative to eco-friendliness and sustainability.
At the beginning of the year, the organization’s researchers published a report in which they detailed what must be done to reduce by 50% the carbon dioxide emissions emitted as a result of tourism activities, by the year 2030. A key component for airlines is the use of jet fuel. According to Simpson, the organization ” Gaining time” until a greener, less polluting jet fuel is found. She is sure that it will happen, but it will take more time.
These days, the main preoccupation of Simpson and the organization’s researchers is focused on wildlife. In our conversation, she cites the data of the wildlife conservation organizations that state that one out of every four species known to us is in danger of extinction. In the last 50 years, the number of wild animals of all species has dropped by 68%. To deal with this data, the organization’s experts and researchers compiled a special report that deals with the ways in which it is possible to encourage the preservation of animals as part of tourism activities.
Simpson calls the report “a practical guide for those engaged in tourism on how to protect nature and the diversity of species in it.” According to her, 80% of all tourist activity is done in nature. For example a vacation on the beach or in the mountains, and according to Simpson, a significant change in perception is required.
“In the past we mainly talked about reducing the carbon footprint, but the current change is that tourists want to leave a positive footprint. The first example that popped into my head is the collection of plastic waste on the beaches of Bali. This is waste that comes from other parts of the world and is emitted from the ocean. The integration of tourists in collecting it from the beaches is exactly the positive footprint we are talking about.” This is 100% eco-friendly travel.
The report is about reconnecting people to nature. How do you do this?
“There are two aspects to this. On the one hand, governments in many countries are currently investing in the restoration of natural sites because they realized that the profits they could make from tourism in these areas, if nature were preserved, are higher than the profits from the destruction. On the other hand, there is an integration of the community in the tourism activity. In Rwanda, for example, many who were previously illegal hunters are now employed as tourist guides for wild animals viewing.”
The introduction to the Wildlife Positive Tourism report states: “You don’t have to feel guilty when planning your next trip. Instead, look for ways to take one of five actions that will make your next trip beneficial and sustainable with nature.”
The five commandments for the eco-friendly travel
Leave nothing behind.
Leave the destination exactly as it was when you arrived. Remember that every minute a garbage truck full of plastic is thrown into one of the oceans.
Think local and eat local foods. Buy gifts from local artisans. Walk or use public transport.
Volunteer to participate in a local cleanup activity, on the beaches or in national parks.
Pay for viewing animals only if they receive good and appropriate living conditions. Participate in tours that support wildlife conservation.
Choose the travel companies and accommodation carefully – according to their commitment to preserving the environment.
Lets leave a positive footprint, with eco-friendly travel and tourism will save the world and not ruin it.