The tourism industry is at a turning point. With an uptick
in demand - arrivals are expected to hit 1.8 billion in 2030 - finding a
balance between people, planet and profit will be crucial.
Tourism in its present form isn't sustainable. If the
current trajectory continues, natural spaces like coral reefs and rainforests
will cease to exist, along with the profit they provide. Pre-pandemic global
arrivals were growing at 4% year on year and destinations were feeling the pressure.
Overtourism can cause a loss in biodiversity, ecosystem degradation, and
resource scarcity. But, there is hope, tourism is an economic powerhouse, and
the implementation of sustainable practices can shift the industry into a force
Here are a few concrete steps that you can adopt to create a
more sustainable tourism industry. No matter if you are on a tropical island,
in an urban cityscape, or at the top of a mountain village.
Supply chain management
Your supply chain is an excellent way to assess your tourism
business' sustainability and it’s also a great arena for change. Where your
products come from, how they are delivered to you, how they are used within
your operations and how they are disposed of after use are all questions to
You, as the buyer, have control over the sustainability standards of
your products. Some useful questions might be: how the product is sourced, how
much waste is created during production, what fuel is used to power
manufacturing and transportation, how efficiently are your guests using the
product, and are the materials recyclable, reusable, or compostable?
information is good information, whether or not you choose to shift your systems
to be more sustainable, understanding your supply chain is key to understanding
your tourism business' footprint.
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Let's take food as an example. A luxury destination may want
to make its guests feel at home with a familiar breakfast. Although
well-intentioned, a Bali resort flying in ingredients all over the world to
provide a “Full English” is unsustainable.
Meals could instead be a great
opportunity to give your guests a cultural experience while supporting the
local economy. Look around, in-season fruits and vegetables, small bakeries,
and local farms are more sustainable and often less expensive options.
of opportunities and competitive advantages can be found throughout your
sustainable transition, if only you adopt a new mindset.
Locals know best. Food, neighborhoods, beaches, they're the
experts. Leveraging their knowledge and working together to build an inclusive,
nondisruptive and positive tourism ecosystem is crucial. Allowing the locals to
have input on tourism within their community also avoids pushback and conflict.
Walking tours, snorkeling trips, cooking classes, and eco
walks hosted by locals are all great ways to get guests to engage with the
community. Actively encouraging these small enterprises can stimulate the local
economy and solidify relationships within the community.
Get involved; host a
brainstorming workshop, offer grants or organize a problem-solving challenge.
You started your tourism business in a destination because you fell in love
with it, show your guests all that it has to offer with the help of those who
know it best.
Regenerative tourism should be the word of 2021. After 18
months of COVID, many destinations are worse for wear. Many are fearful about
the entry of tourists and yet desperate for economic stimulation.
just withholding harm from a destination, think about effective ways to help.
Again, leveraging local input is critical here, don't get yourself trapped in voluntourism.
Projects like beach cleanups, tree planting, or helping with animal
conservation are good ideas.
Partner with local NGOs to learn the needs of the
community and understand the most appropriate ways to involve your guests.
Improved signage and campaigns
It's so simple but so effective. Most tourists aren't aware
of the need for sustainability and think that it will be difficult, expensive,
or simply inconvenient.
Communicating your changes and motives to guests
shouldn't be an afterthought.
You have nothing to hide, you are doing right by our
planet! Are you implementing a new laundry system? Tell them. Are you shifting
to a more plant-based menu? Tell them. Are you lessening your plastic usage?
Making sustainable practices painless could even convert the most
stubborn of guests to see the ease of sustainability.
It sounds so cliche but cut the plastic. Regardless of your
location, minimizing plastic straws, cutlery, shampoo bottles, and packaging is
important. Only offer straws or toiletries when requested. If omitting or
withholding is not possible, use recyclable or biodegradable materials.
If you operate in a marine destination, encourage reef-safe
sunscreen and educate your guests on the impact of chemicals on corals. Send
out information in your confirmation email or partner with a reef-safe brand
and think about selling it at the concierge desk.
Offer more plant-based options. Even a new vegan or
vegetarian starter and entree can do the trick. Meeting a wider variety of
dietary requests can let guests know that you care about their needs and are
making an effort to be more conscious.
Sustainability can seem daunting, but small changes can
become bigger and any effort is needed and appreciated.
About the author...
Melissa Novotny is operations and partnership manager at Sea Going Green