Tourism plays an important and significant role in our society. The pandemic in particular has highlighted the importance of travel. Whether for business or pleasure, travel is part of our lives. But what happens if we neglect the environment? The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent. Sustainability and sustainable tourism are in the spotlight and will continue to grow in importance.
Read on to find out what sustainable tourism and eco-tourism are. What is the impact of tourism on the environment, how can you travel sustainably and how can the hotel industry become more sustainable?
Facts about travel
Sustainability is already an important issue for many travellers. Holidays should be socially responsible, resource-efficient and environmentally friendly. More and more people attach great importance to social and environmental sustainability when travelling. The megatrends of sustainability and digitalisation have gained in importance, not least due to the pandemic.
The Travel Analysis 2022 shows that 47% of the population attach importance to a holiday that is as environmentally sustainable as possible. For 64%, a socially responsible holiday is extremely important. Fair working conditions and respect for local communities should be a prerequisite.
The term "sustainable travel" is not clearly defined. According to the World Tourism Organization UNWTO (United Nations specialized agency, the World Tourism Organization), sustainable tourism means "an establishment that takes full account of present and future economic, social and environmental impacts in order to meet the needs of visitors, industry, the environment and host communities".
What impact does tourism have on the environment?
Travelling is more popular than ever and thus also has a positive impact on the economy. Tourism is one of the most important economic sectors worldwide. It creates many jobs and finances the preservation of (cultural) sites and features.
On the other hand, tourism is strongly responsible for the fact that valuable resources are becoming scarcer. Many travellers want to visit certain landscapes, cities or regions and accept long travel distances. It is precisely the popularity of these tourist highlights that leads to overcrowding with mass tourist flows.
This so-called mass tourism, also known as "overtourism", has many environmentally harmful consequences. For example, increasing CO2 emissions due to polluting means of transport, lack of sewage and waste disposal, increased waste generation and environmental pollution are the consequences. Cooperation between tourism and government continues to be important, because one thing is clear: many things have to change and improve, a suitable strategy for sustainable tourism has to be developed.
How to travel sustainably by yourself?
Every contribution of the individual is important and counts, everyone can contribute to an improvement. On the one hand, everyone can make sure to choose destinations that are close by in order to reduce emissions. The greatest environmental impact results from the journey to and from the destination. Distance, but of course also the choice of transport, play an important role: bus, train and bicycle are therefore good options if the destination is not far away. Air travel and cruises should be avoided as much as possible. For the more adventurous, hiking, canoeing or cycling tours are good options.
If a flight is necessary for long-distance travel, there is the possibility of offsetting the amount of CO2 produced. Many other tour operators, transport companies and accommodation providers now offer this service. By donating to non-profit organisations, you can help generate electricity from renewable sources.
Planning your trip well is the key. This already starts with packing your suitcase. According to the motto "less is more", you should only pack what is absolutely necessary. Gathering information about the destination and planning the trip saves a lot of time and stress during the stay. Every decision we make as tourists has an impact on the destination. Activities and tours should therefore be chosen and planned carefully.
Our checklist for sustainable travel
- Select destinations nearby
- Plan transport & route
- Choose your means of transport wisely
- Consider travel time and duration
- Create a minimalist packing list
- Consider CO2 compensation
- Avoid unnecessary consumption & waste
- Plan local activities
Sustainability in the hotel industry
Sustainability in the tourism industry is more important than ever. In order to position oneself as a business in the long term, it is important to adapt to the tourism offer. Finally, the pandemic has also shown that many things in our everyday behaviour need to be changed and we need to act more ecologically.
Awareness of sustainability and environmental protection is therefore also clearly increasing in the hotel industry: guests attach much more importance to a sustainable and green image of the hotel. Not only on a regional level does sustainability have to be lived, but also internally sustainability is becoming more and more important. Already think about changes to daily structures and work processes.
Ideas for an environmentally friendly hotel
Instead of printing out, filing and storing unnecessary paperwork, you can already digitise many things. This not only saves paper and printer ink, but also a lot of time, money and space. Digital check-in and the introduction of a digital registration form make it possible to act in an environmentally friendly way.
In many hotels, it is now also possible to decide for yourself how often towels and bed linen should be changed. Room cleaning can also be cancelled during the hotel stay if it is not necessary. Making guests aware of how important it is to save water and energy contributes to more awareness. In addition to water and energy costs, costs for cleaning products are also saved, and employees and the environment are relieved.
Reducing waste and avoiding plastic helps to protect the environment, buying food regionally and seasonally reduces CO2 emissions and supports the local economy and local producers.
Communicating with guests about environmentally friendly measures has a positive influence on guest satisfaction and thus also on customer loyalty. In addition, sustainable positioning brings competitive advantages and a good image. Awareness of the high and increasing importance of environmental protection is achieved among guests.
With green measures you can not only save costs and time and contribute to climate protection, but also score points with the guests.