Remember those things called holidays we all used to enjoy? Well, hopefully, they’ll be back soon(ish).
It’s undeniable that Covid-19 has completely crippled the tourism industry. In fact, 2020 has been described as the worst year in tourism history, with a worldwide loss of $1.3 trillion. Holidays abroad have been halted. Hotels have been housing hospital workers, rather than happy holiday-makers. And entire airlines have collapsed, with Flybe – Europe’s largest regional airline – seeing Covid-19 as the last straw on the camel’s back.
The travel industry is well and truly struggling. But for any hotels, airlines, and other members of the industry who do make it through this pandemic, they will be rewarded. Once we are allowed to travel again, there will almost certainly be an enormous wave of cabin-crazy holiday-makers, desperate to leave the UK and hungry for a break abroad. Surely, when this is all over, a lack of customers won’t be an issue, will it?
But what impact will this have on the planet?
As bad as things have been, this pandemic did have one silver lining: it allowed the planet to rest. For a while, there was less traffic, less congestion, and less pollution. And now, there's an opportunity for the tourism industry to reboot with a greener mind-set. But will this happen, and perhaps more importantly, how can this happen?
Make the travel worth it
Tourism is said to be responsible for nearly one tenth of the world’s carbon emissions, with a majority of this stemming from air transport. So, when you’re traveling to and from your next holiday destination, it better be worth it.
You can make the journey more sustainable by doing one big flight rather than lots of little ones. Opting for a smaller airplane seat can also be beneficial. While the lack of legroom might be off-putting, cramming more seats into one plane means there’s less emissions per passenger, versus lots of separate journeys taking place on multiple private jets. Plus, an economy seat is sure to be much cheaper!
Many of us enjoy hopping from one place to another – spending 24 hours in one country and then moving swiftly onto the next holiday spot – and while there are many advantages to travelling this way, it’s typically more environmentally damaging.
Spending longer in one spot makes the journey more worthwhile. It also gives you more opportunity to really get to know somewhere – to meet the locals, find the quirky hidden eating spots, or explore the native scenery. So, rather than having multiple weekend-away holidays throughout the year, it’s actually much more sustainable to have one long, thorough holiday.
Respect the land
We all have a responsibility to look after our planet. Some of us may have more power than others, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all do our bit to help.
And this doesn’t have to be hard either. Helping to care for and maintain the planet is something we can all easily do while we travel. For example, putting your rubbish in the bin, and leaving places as you found them, helps to preserve the land and enables others to enjoy it just as you have.
On your holidays, if you’re out adventuring, it’s also a good idea to stick to the recommended paths and trails. Don’t go trampling your way through untouched, potentially dangerous land, which might be home to endangered wildlife and should be respected. While there’s more pressure these days to take the most photogenic photo snaps – to find the most Instagrammable view – this shouldn’t be at the cost of ruining what’s left of our planet.
Speaking of appreciation, sometimes we don’t need an overly priced, overly excessive fully inclusive holiday. Sometimes a simple camping trip, or a quaint self-sufficient cabin somewhere is just the wholesome holiday you need.
It’s understandable that we all want to make up for the past year, and go on the biggest, best holiday possible once we’re allowed to travel again. But sometimes, it’s important to sit back and gain some perspective. Do you need to take your caravan all the way down to Spain, or would a caravan site in Cornwall be just as nice? Do you really need all that food in your all-inclusive hotel buffet breakfast, or is it just going to be wasted? Do you really need to buy an entire new wardrobe of holiday outfits, or have you already got a perfectly good bikini and a decent pair of shorts to bring with you? We get it – splashing out can be a lot of fun – but everything has a price.
Sustainability isn’t just about being eco-friendly. It’s about interacting with locals and supporting their independent businesses while you’re abroad. After all, if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s the importance of community. If you’re not supporting local companies while you’re away, they won’t last, and others won’t be able to enjoy them either. Doing something as simple as attending a small, family-owned coffee shop, versus buying your breakfast from a multinational fast-food chain, can make a huge difference to the local economy. Plus, independent companies normally have a dramatically smaller carbon footprint, compared with bigger brands who may ship their goods in from halfway across the world.
Do your homework
Before you book a holiday away, there’s no harm in looking into a business’s environmental policies. Do they donate money to charity, or manage carbon offsetting projects (such as planting trees to counteract their carbon footprint)? Have they released any statements, or done any research, about their impact on the planet? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, if nobody does, how will anything change?
There’s still a way to go until holidays abroad are a norm again. Only a small handful of countries are currently on the UK’s ‘green travel list’, such as the Cayman Islands and Malta. However, the rules are constantly changing and nothing is set in stone, and so a holiday abroad still remains almost impossible. But when borders reopen, and we can once again lap up the sun and explore foreign countries, I hope that everyone enjoys every second of it, while being a little greener too.