What is sustainability? And what's all the fuss about anyway?
Sustainability, as defined by the world's greatest encyclopaedia (the Wikipedia, of course!), is the capacity to endure in a relatively ongoing way across various domains of life; in the 21st century, it generally refers to the ability for Earth's biosphere and human civilisation to co-exist. And that's it! The keyword here is "co-exist".
We are all guilty of taking Earth for granted, exploiting its resources for our profits, comfortable life, and, generally, not give a damn about the next generations.
Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world. It accounts for 10% of the world's GDP and employment. The number of tourists is expected to reach 1.8 billion in the year 2030. That same year, the world population will be 8.6 billion! An increase of almost a whole billion from now; seriously, it should make us rethink mass consumption, resources, and climate change.
So… what's sustainable tourism?
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) definition, sustainable tourism "takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities." In short, it's tourism that respects the natural environment, resources, culture and traditions of a place.
What can we do?
Since we know what's expected to happen by 2030, it would be utterly irresponsible to continue the same way we do now. However, it doesn't mean that this alternative form of tourism is not already here: there are excellent examples of sustainable tourism in many countries. We, the tour operators, already started to change the way we organise the tours; we prefer activities that are respectful of the environment and promote slow travel. We encourage a tourism model whose goal is to respect and preserve the extensive local heritage. Any tour we create must consider critical social issues such as depopulation of rural areas and overpopulation in large cities (we prefer to visit the countryside than to queue for hours to climb the Eiffel tour!)
Obviously, these are just drops in the ocean. Nonetheless, since it is the responsibility of everyone involved, both consumers and business people, we can work together in the following decades to achieve a more sustainable world for future generations.
Top Sustainable Countries
Euromonitor International released a ranking of the top 10 countries that promoted sustainable tourism in 2020. What was analysed? Environment, social, economy, demand, transport, risks, and accommodation. The top 10 are Sweden, Finland, Austria, Estonia, Norway, Slovakia, Iceland, Latvia, France and Slovenia. Looking at the list, we are not surprised at all that Scandinavian countries are all there; the same goes for Baltic states (the latter are our firm favourite for travel!). Every year, the European Union also chose the European Green Capital; the evaluation process is very complex, and the winning city is awarded a cash bonus of €350,000; the prize that makes it possible to considerably improve the chosen city's ecological policy (not that the UK will ever be able to apply since Brexit happened). Every year, pretty much the same cities are shortlisted. With one tiny exception… in 2015, the four cities that were shortlisted as finalists in the competition were…Bristol (!), Brussels, Glasgow (!) and Ljubljana. And the title went to Bristol!
How will we travel now?
People will always have an extreme desire to travel. This year, clearly the domestic travel is at the top of our mind. But the impact of the pandemic is changing not just our choice of destination but also the type of trips we're most likely to take! We discovered we could work remotely (a brand new travel trend with hotels offering special packages for long term stays), we adopted a more eco-conscious mindset, we prefer to immerse ourselves in off-the-beaten-path experiences, we're more conscious about the type of travel gear we pack even for the shortest of trips. We've changed for the better! And that's ironically something positive to come out of the pandemic!