Sustainable tourism: Balancing economic growth and environmentally responsible transportation
As the weather begins to warm, a significant increase in visitors to parks, trails, beaches, and National Trust properties across the country can be expected. Not to mention all the jet-setters soon off on their summer hols. That’s a lot of extra journeys, and with June also being ‘Great Outdoors Month’, it’s an excellent time for us to reflect on the importance of sustainable tourism in the transport and travel sector.
Sustainable tourism is all about balancing economic growth with environmental responsibility, and, as we explore the delicate balance between these two factors, it becomes clear that transportation plays a crucial role.
When it comes to outdoor tourist attractions, transportation often has the most significant environmental impact. And it’s not just the carbon emissions of planes, cars and buses used to ferry tourists to attractive locations, there’s also the impact of foot traffic on delicate ecosystems to consider. That being said, enjoying the great outdoors is something to be celebrated and encouraged! As well as individual health benefits (both mental and physical), economic growth and the tourism industry’s success are also essential factors in wider prosperity.
What is sustainable tourism?
Sustainable tourism has become increasingly important in recent years due to the growing awareness of the impacts of tourism on the environment. According to the World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals reached 1.4 billion globally in 2018, and this number is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. This increase in travel has significant implications for the environment, particularly from transportation. In fact, the travel and tourism sector is responsible for approximately 8% of global carbon emissions. Air travel alone is responsible for 2.5%, and is expected to triple by 2050 if action is not taken to reduce emissions.
In addition to air travel, road transportation also poses significant challenges when it comes to sustainable tourism. The increasing demand for travel has led to a rise in car ownership and the use of personal vehicles, which has resulted in increased congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.
The tourism industry has recognised the need for more sustainable practices, but progress is slow. There are still significant challenges that the sector faces when it comes to balancing economic growth and environmental responsibility. The demand for travel is unlikely to decrease, and the industry must find ways to reduce its impact on the environment while still meeting the needs of travellers. This requires a shift towards more sustainable modes of transportation, such as electric vehicles and public transport, as well as the adoption of more sustainable practices by tourism businesses.
What can I do about it?
There are several solutions and strategies that the transport and travel sector can implement to promote sustainable tourism:
- Go local: Encouraging tourists to explore the great outdoors locally – even if that just means elsewhere in their home country rather than flying overseas – can be beneficial for both the environment and local communities. By promoting local outdoor activities, such as hiking or biking, tourists can experience the natural beauty of the area while supporting local businesses and reducing the environmental impact of transportation. Additionally, it makes it more likely that healthy travel habits will be adopted long term if they’re accessible from their doorstep.
- Go electric: One of the most effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of transportation is to switch to alternative modes of transportation. Electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming more widely available, and many tourism businesses are now offering electric vehicle charging stations to encourage their use. I’ve personally noticed that car parks by a lot of the Scottish lochs increasingly have charging stations. And for city breaks, where it’s viable, alternative modes of transportation such as bicycles, electric scooters, and walking can be promoted to reduce the reliance on personal vehicles.
- Go public: Public transport is a more sustainable option than personal vehicles, and tourism businesses can promote the use of park-and-ride, and other public transport options to reduce the environmental impact of travel. This could include offering discounts for public transport tickets or partnering with local transport providers to offer shuttle services to tourist attractions.
- Good practice: Tourism businesses can adopt responsible tourism practices to minimise the environmental impact of travel. This could include reducing water and energy consumption, minimising waste, and using eco-friendly products. Additionally, businesses can educate their customers on responsible tourism practices, such as reducing plastic usage and respecting local cultures and environments.
- Green and proud: Tourism businesses can obtain certifications such as Green Globe or EarthCheck to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable tourism. These certifications require businesses to meet certain criteria related to environmental and social sustainability, which can help to promote sustainable tourism and attract environmentally-conscious customers.
What’s in it for me?
Promoting sustainable tourism practices can bring numerous benefits to the transport and travel sector:
- Improved customer satisfaction: Many consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious and are seeking out sustainable tourism, offering a potential new source of custom and increased customer satisfaction for businesses promoting sustainable transportation options.
- Cost savings: Adopting sustainable practices, such as reducing energy and water consumption, can result in cost savings for tourism businesses. Additionally, promoting alternative modes of transportation can help to reduce fuel costs and maintenance costs for personal vehicles.
- Reduced environmental impact: Sustainable tourism practices can help to reduce the environmental impact of travel, such as greenhouse gas emissions and waste generation. This can help to preserve natural resources and protect delicate ecosystems, which can benefit both the tourism industry and the environment.
- Positive reputation: By promoting sustainable tourism practices, tourism businesses can build a positive reputation for themselves, and help to differentiate them from competitors, as well as benefiting the industry as a whole.
- Economic benefits: Sustainable tourism can bring economic benefits to local communities by promoting sustainable development and supporting local businesses. This can help to create jobs and increase economic growth in the long term.
It’s crucial for the transport and travel sector to find a balance between economic growth and environmental responsibility in transportation. By adopting sustainable practices and promoting sustainable transportation options, tourism businesses can help to create a more sustainable future for their industry, the environment, and the people who enjoy it.
If you’d like to work together to reduce the environmental impact of travel and create a more sustainable future for generations to come, please do get in touch.