It has now been almost a year since COVID-19 started affecting our lives, and many of us long for traveling. But how is sustainable tourism possible? Can we travel and protect the climate at the same time? We don’t advocate staying at home forever or just traveling by bike or even foot. But it wasn’t just the pandemic that showed that we should rethink the way we travel.
The Dream of White, Sandy Beaches and Palm Trees – CO2 and Air Travel
When we think of vacation, we often dream of tropical beaches. For many, these are very far away and can only be reached without flying for the extremely patient. Corona has caused global air traffic to collapse, and the environment has been able to recover a bit. Is our flight shame justified?
The airplane is certainly not a means of transport that comes to mind when thinking about sustainable tourism. In addition to harmful CO2 emissions, so-called “non-CO2 effects” such as nitrogen oxides and water vapor are emitted in the stratosphere and have a negative impact on the environment. Especially short distances can often be covered by train. This of course takes more time, but it can also have a special charm to get on the train in the evening and wake up to breakfast in another city! This is of course not an alternative for your next Thailand vacation, though.
There is also the possibility of compensating for the CO2 with a donation. This money is then contributed towards environmental projects that are supposed to bind CO2. With providers such as atmosfair you can calculate the emissions of your flight. For example, on a Vienna-Bangkok return flight, almost 5,000 kg of CO2 is emitted per person, while driving a car 12,000 km only comes to around 2000 kg a year.
Discover Untouched Nature – Environmental Pollution
Most individual travelers don’t (only) want to visit the most popular places and sights with the masses, but rather discover the country and its lesser-known sides. This interest in the culture, nature, and way of life of a holiday destination should not be condemned! If you find yourself venturing off the beaten track, however, make sure you are respectful of the locals and nature.
For example, look for local initiatives like taking part in a beach clean-up, and try to avoid activities that are harmful to the environment. Aside from leaving no trash behind (which we shouldn’t be doing anywhere anyway), you can try refilling water bottles. This can avoid a lot of plastic waste. Several apps such as RefillMyBottle have committed themselves to this goal and will show you the next refill station!
A Day Trip to the Rainforest – Support the Local People
What would a holiday in Thailand be without a visit to the elephants or in Hawaii without a surf course? We are also happy to book courses or excursions to special places for individual trips. These offers, as well as tourism in general, are often an important source of income and secure jobs for a part of the population. However, there are also large, international providers who are competing with the locals. Even if it’s not easy: take a close look and try to assess whether the company is exploiting people and the land or it is pursuing a sustainable approach and pays the local guides and employees fair wages! Animal welfare is also an important factor. More and more tours are being offered in Thailand which treat the elephants quite well. They are no longer shown and mounted, but rather feeding and observation are on the agenda.
The Beach in Thailand or Hallstatt – Overtourism
There are places that are incredibly attractive and difficult to miss. Just think about the beach from the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio or Hallstatt in Austria! What both of these places have in common is mass tourism. In Thailand, coral death has advanced massively due to the countless boats that have incessantly transported visitors in and out. The only way to save this valuable ecosystem was to close this beach so nature can recover. That’s not what sustainable tourism looks like!
In Hallstatt, it is not nature but the residents who suffer. Some of them had to lock their doors and hang up signs to prevent having tourists suddenly standing in their houses and gardens. Since the corona crisis, they can at least breathe a sigh of relief. On the other hand, many companies now have to stay afloat until travelers are able to visit the small Austrian town again.
But what can we do about it, is it still possible to go anywhere? Yes, definitely! These places are heavily dependent on tourism, as this is the main source of income. It is especially important to behave responsibly there: whether not to deviate from the marked paths, only to go with a guide, or not to bother the people living there, e. g. not taking photographs without asking.
Before the Trip – Sustainable Vacation Planning
For many, intensive research of their holiday destination is part of the experience, especially when it comes to sustainable tourism. We read travel guides and blogs, think about the best travel routes, and indulge in great pictures. But regardless of whether you prefer to plan everything and book in advance or just want to get a rough idea of the country – you can use the time to seek out sustainable and alternative offers. Perhaps you will find a cozy eco-hotel, guided tours from local providers, sustainable initiatives, etc. In addition, you will already be informed and know, for example, that some beaches ban sunscreens with environmentally harmful ingredients or not to visit certain attractions where animals might get harmed and/or exploited.
Our tip: take the means of transport that the locals use, even if e. g. taxis in South East Asia are very cheap for us. The environment is protected when you use the bus and train, and it’s one of the best ways to get in touch with locals!
Stay at Home – Digital Offers
We understand if you don’t see this as a real alternative, but at the moment we don’t have much choice but to stay at home. It’s something completely different to go on a trip and get to know a new country with all your senses. But digital offers should not go unmentioned here. They can kill some time, and we don’t have to worry about flight emissions, local pollution, or fair working conditions for the local population.
In our blog articles you can find out about the online offers of museums worldwide and in the German-speaking countries. On our website, there’s a variety of digital city tours and museum guides for many different countries! How about a visit to the Acropolis, a tour about witches in Zagreb, or a city walk in Vienna, which tells you everything about the love for sale in the olden days? There’s something for everyone!
There’s probably still some time until your next trip! Use it wisely, think it through, and maybe you can plan your next trip more sustainably and environmentally friendly.