Since international travel restrictions began to ease, passport stamp-starved-travelers have eagerly taken to the skies to explore the world. According to the World Economic Forum, tourists spent an extra 1.8 billion nights in the European Union in 2021 compared to the year before. As of January this year, the UN World Tourism Organisation estimated that, globally, international arrivals have grown by 130%. People have been so anxious to reinstate their wanderlust that they have created a term for it “revenge travel”. While this is great news for tourism industries around the world, it may spell bad news for the environment unless we can learn the art of regenerative travel.
Leigh Myles, Business Development Manager at award-winning booking platform Profitroom says, “Before the pandemic, around 75% of global animal tourism experiences are guilty of welfare or conservation abuses. One of the unintended consequences of locking the world down for two years was that wildlife destinations took the opportunity to regenerate the land and allow animals to live as intended. As the world opens up again, we need to create a more sustainable tourism environment if we want to safeguard the future of our continent.”
The effects of climate change have become too glaring for us to ignore. In sectors across the business landscape, companies, customers and other stakeholders are recognising the need to act urgently if we want to avert disaster. The tourism industry is no different. Increasingly, travellers and tourism establishments are taking the concept of responsible and sustainable travel into consideration. Consequently, a more concerted effort is being made to minimise their carbon footprint and boost their contribution to local communities.
Tourism is a major source of income in Africa and provides income to millions. In South Africa, alone, tourism and travel brought in over R400 billion in revenue in 2017, which was over 9% of the GDP. However, to be an attractive tourist destination, the destination must be attractive. Roughly 84% of South Africa’s plastic waste is dispersed into oceans or overflowing landfills. Only 16% of that plastic gets recycled. Travel can be a huge source of disposable plastic and over time mass travel degrades and environment thus making it less attractive and creating a vicious circle.
Exploring the world sustainably does not have to be difficult. If you just remember not to leave litter behind, have respect for the local customs and traditions, and book your holidays with sustainable service providers, you are already halfway there. Travelers that consciously exercise their purchasing power can redistribute money from the developed world into developing countries and in so doing, to meaningful steps toward alleviating poverty on a local level.
Countries in Africa like Rwanda and Tanzania have banned plastic, seemingly Kenya is slowly infiltrating this practice. Leigh would like to challenge the South African government and tourists alike to restrict the use of single-use plastic, or like a sugar tax, place a high tax on companies that use plastic. Making that simple change it will reduce litter and allow for tax money to be redirected to more important areas – like poverty and medical care.