As we begin what will hopefully be the final exit from lockdown, people are understandably keen to embark upon their first post-pandemic holiday adventures.
The enforced period of restricted movement has caused many to look more closely at the issue of travelling more sustainably and we are seeing more people seeking to align their desire to travel with their environmental values.
Sustainable travel is finding a way that tourism can be maintained long-term without harming natural and cultural environments.
It first emerged in the 1980s and as awareness has grown and tourists become more widely travelled, has become an increasingly progressive trend.
As a result, expectations of quality and new experiences have risen, as well as seeking great value for money.
There is a growing understanding of the global issues we face as a generation in terms of the environmental and ethical impact we are having, and travellers wish to seek ways to limit their personal carbon footprint.
However, there can be considerable confusion on how to do this successfully.
We can address any uncertainties you might have and offer suggestions for more sustainable travel solutions.
There is a common misconception that the ideal form of environmentally friendly travel would include embarking on forms such as eco-tourism or low-impact tourism.
While these areas are of high importance, they are extremely sensitive to human impact and vulnerable to environmental damage or cultural disturbance, which is something to bear in mind.
In many instances though, with the correct research and knowledge of where eco-tourism is practiced effectively, they can be excellent places to visit.
The Galapagos National Park is one such example.
Despite it being a fragile environment, there are measures in place to ensure both the protection and preservation of the island, whilst allowing tourists to enjoy all it has to offer.
Tour providers on the island must ensure the conservation of water and energy, recycle and treat waste material plus source their products and staff locally, offering them additional training.
There is also a strict limit on how many people can visit the Galapagos at a single time, which ensures tourists can enjoy the pristine beaches, wildlife, snorkelling, diving, hiking, views and landscape whilst still being considerate of the environment.
Another example of a sustainable eco-friendly destination is Costa Rica, one of the most biodiverse places in the world and set to be the first plastic-free and carbon-neutral country.
Renowned as a global leader for sustainability, 30% of the natural land is protected and an astonishing 93% of its electricity is generated from renewable resources.
There is a diverse array of activities visitors can enjoy, from rainforest hikes, whale-watching, snorkelling, diving, surfing and mangrove swamp tours.
Sustainable travel is not limited to seeking ways to reduce your environmental impact, it also considers the overall impact that tourism has on the locals and respecting cultural heritage.
The way you spend money whilst visiting can have a huge impact on meeting the needs of the host population in terms of improving their living conditions in both the short and long term.
When visiting Morocco, for example, there are a variety of ways we can help plan your holiday ensuring sustainable development and growth to the host country and creating a positive impact.
Buying locally produced goods from market stalls and dining in independent restaurants are excellent ways to help boost the local economy.
Although we can all fall victim to sticking to what is familiar, try choosing to consume local produce and staying in locally-owned hotels rather than the big hotel chains.
Embracing the local lifestyle will not only make your trip more authentic by diversifying and expanding your cultural appreciation, but it also supports the local community and promotes long-term sustainable development.
Regularly researching and keeping updated with which tour operators support responsible tourism is another way we ensure your travels are sustainable.
Finding answers to important questions, such as how do their trips support and protect wildlife and the cultural heritage, do they employ locals and finding out what their environmentally friendly practices are can be effective ways of measuring how sustainable your trip is.
Intrepid Travel is an Australian-owned company and one of the only carbon-neutral tour operators as well as being the world’s first to commit to science-based sustainability targets.
They are focused on ‘how’ as opposed to ‘where’ to travel in 2021 and have incorporated wider industry trends into their newest trips, including forms of slow travel, the rise of regenerative travel, and the growth of wilderness and activity holidays.
They offer a range of sustainable global tours which include staying in locally owned accommodation, hiring local guides, and have banned all elephant rides.
Tour operators like Intrepid highlight the obligation for the travel industry to refocus and adapt and it is likely many more will follow suit.
For city breaks, there are a few which seem to be ahead in combatting sustainability issues, with Copenhagen achieving the proud status of being the world’s most eco-friendly city.
It is set to become the first carbon-neutral city by 2025 and its citizens prefer cycling as their main form of transportation, with a surprising figure of only 29% of households owning a car.
The majority of its hotels provide guests with a bicycle and a whopping 88% of the food served in public organisations is organically produced.
Zurich in Switzerland is another great destination that was recognised as the most sustainable city in 2016, and today, for its cogent environmental policy which aims to maintain a high quality of the natural world both in and around the city.
Peaceful parks and green spaces, quirky shopping areas in refurbished industrial sites, beautiful architecture and picturesque waterfronts are among its highlights, plus a stroll along Bahnhofstrasse, the world’s most expensive street is a must.
It appears that the need for sustainable planning and management will be essential for the travel industry to survive. The necessity to refocus and adapt is urgent and we are seeing positive changes in terms of its focus on sustainable and responsible travel.
British Airways has announced that it will begin using sustainable fuels in 2022 which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by "more than 70% in comparison to fossil jet fuel".
The Balearics have recently pledged to make sustainable tourism the heart of its post-Covid recovery strategy and it is likely many other countries will follow suit.
Prior to the pandemic, one-tenth of the global population were travelling internationally and the industry’s aim is not to limit this growth but to increase it in a way that supports and protects the destination environment and its host country, whilst allowing a positive experience for the tourist.
Following this year in lockdown, escapism and the opportunity to experience new things will be highly desired.
When you next get the opportunity to travel, why not make a conscious effort to plan a trip that will provide you with unforgettable experiences, whilst promoting sustainable development and environmental protection of the places you get to enjoy.