Those that read this site regularly will be aware that the topics of sustainable travel and the environment are close to my heart. Therefore it was particularly interesting to take part in the regular social media hashtag meet, Travel Talk on Twitter (TToT) which was about this subject.
The social media travel community is extremely knowledgeable and insightful. The expertise, tips and common sense that are shared every week prove the wealth of information which is available through this forum. Everybody that participates is generous with their experience, sharing great tips and it is possible to pick up genuinely useful advice. This topic certainly did not disappoint.
The questions raised a number of issues from sustainable transportation to the challenges that face the sustainable tourism industry in the future. Many sensible and useful suggestions, opinions were shared and some great projects unveiled.
Sustainable travel means many things to many people and when people were defining it there were some outstanding comments.
Slow travel and alternatives to flying was unsurprisingly a popular theme, with many feeling that short-haul flights require to be reduced. Alternatives for reaching remote destinations like Micronesia, are understandably more difficult and probably only practical for those on extended periods of travel.
Encouraging local communities to become involved in any project which provide sustainable options was another popular suggestion. Communities need to instantly perceive potential benefits, long-term improvements are often difficult for them to accept when their children are hungry now.
Respect for the people and environment of any region or country is essential if beautiful, and authentic destinations and their cultures are to survive.
The discussion included sustainable transport options, most suggestions were predictable, from camels, horses and elephants, to kayaks, hitchhiking and cycling. Making use of our feet seemed the most popular suggestion and certainly within a destination walking should become the first choice.
The savvy community accepted that whilst sustainability is extremely important to tourism, the industry faces many challenges to achieve this.
Balancing the requirements of travellers with the needs of the local community, the culture of the region and the eco-systems were recognised as important challenges by many participants. Preserving the traditional way of life, retaining the ‘authenticity’ of a culture and the wildlife of a destination so it remained an attractive travel option for future generations was another.
Most accepted that education is of paramount importance, with all involved needing to understand the challenges and implications. Governments, industry, tour operators, accommodation providers, local communities but possibly most of all tourists need educating to adjust their expectations.
It was also heartening to hear that there are initiatives being discussed which will give a ‘code of practice’ for sustainable tourism operators to adhere to. The hope is that those fulfilling the stipulated requirements will become certified providing travellers with a list of approved operators.
When asked to give some basic ways in which each traveller can support sustainable travel, the community surpassed itself.
The underlying advice was that we should all take responsibility for ourselves, our actions and travel choices. There are genuine eco-friendly options available and merely carbon-offsetting a flight is not one of them.
Supporting local projects and spending money within the community and not just in a resort hotel were popular suggestions. Making smart decisions, doing some thorough research into the ‘green’ credentials of travel operators was another. Encouraging those that are making genuine efforts to become sustainable through bookings was well supported within the community.
Whilst there maybe a need for a luxury segment of the sustainable tourism market, where possible opting for homestays would be more beneficial to the community.
Inevitably flying, especially short-haul flights again came in for some adverse comments. Many accepted however that the alternatives also need to reduce fares so they are can compete with budget airlines. Travellers may spend a little more for more environmentally friendly options, but most probably cannot afford to if the difference is too great.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank the TToT community for providing such a stimulating and thought-provoking discussion. It was thoroughly enjoyable and provided plenty to consider. Please do not be offended, your comments have not been hijacked for this post. This not my intention, it would impossible to write without your combined comments.
I certainly learned a great deal but despite this, realised my sustainable travel education has only just begun.
The topic maybe summarised as: