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Posted by on Jun 23, 2016 in Environment | 1 comment

Why More Countries Need to Back Sustainable Tourism

With France’s air-traffic controllers in constant disputes with their government about issues like salary, staffing and retirement, these workers have been on strike for an average of one in every 12 days since the beginning of 2016. Not only has the strike cost international airlines millions of dollars in revenue, but it’s also affecting tourists as more and more flights have been canceled for people looking to fly in and out of France.

If you think you can fly into London and take a nice, scenic drive to your destination, think again. Many French gas station workers are on strike too, meaning that approximately one in three gas stations in the country has run out of oil supplies.

The implications of the strikes go beyond just you and your vacation; they gravely affect the economy. With a large number of these countries relying heavily on the tourism industry, especially during the summer months, how could the governments avert these crises?

The answer: sustainable tourism.

What Is Sustainable Tourism and How Is It Possible?

We’ve all heard of sustainability. You probably even practice it by recycling and reusing old items for the sake of the environment. Maybe you even work for a company committed to renewable energy. However, sustainable tourism gets a little more complex. It means more than just traveling green. To be truly sustainable, tourism must consider environmental, economic and socioeconomic factors.

1. Invest in Alternative Transportation

Trains like the Eurostar, a high-speed railway that carries passengers between France and England, have made strides to become more energy-efficient. The company successfully slashed its CO2 emissions per passenger by 31 percent in 2009. They also cut down on carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 90 percent. With short-haul flights creating three times as many emissions as long-haul, large-scale investment in these alternative methods of transportation are a win-win for both the environment and the tourist industry.

The same goes for public transportation. These systems may be hard to figure out, but locals and dedicated workers are often more than willing to help those are who unfamiliar with the location. Not only is public transport often cheaper than a car rental, it also helps to cut down on the ultimate first-world problem: congestion.

Congestion has a huge economic and environmental impact. For example, from just 2009 to 2010, congestion costs across 439 urban areas in the United States reached $101 billion, with Florida alone – a popular tourist destination – accounting for $5.6 billion. With its high level of congestion, Florida commuters wasted 116 million gallons of fuel that year. That’s a lot of emissions.

2. Support Local Accommodation Over Chain Hotels

Bed-and-breakfast accommodation tends to be smaller than big-box hotels and thus can be more environmentally friendly by using less energy and water. The rise in popularity of services like Airbnb, which operates on the principles of home sharing for tourists, has greatly helped to fuel this once-niche industry, so it pays to back these initiatives. In fact, Airbnb conducted a recent study on the environmental impact of its home-sharing concept versus hotel stays and found that U.S. Airbnb travelers averaged 63 percent less energy use than hotel guests.

With the announcement this week of restrictions in New York on Airbnb operators, it will be interesting to see what impact this may have on the economy of the city. It’s unlikely that the Big Apple will suffer too much, but if Mayor de Blasio wants to get serious about combatting the effects of climate change and supporting environmental sustainability, his administration would be wise to rethink the measures put forward by Governor Cuomo.

3. Encourage and Fund Locally Owned Businesses

Locally owned businesses tend to reduce environmental impact by making local purchases, thus reducing transportation needs, congestion, sprawl and pollution. Not only that, but by encouraging tourists to “shop local”, they will be supporting local workers and helping to continue reinvestment in the local economy. By providing incentives to build and fund small businesses, governments would not only be reducing the overall environmental impact, but also giving tourists the opportunity to really experience the unique culture of the location. Who doesn’t want that on their vacation?

So why should we care about sustainable tourism? Well, it’s a part of thinking globally and showing compassion for a world greater than ourselves. It is possible to avoid or minimize the detrimental effects of tourism on the Earth, while countries increase their GDP and tourists get to enjoy the unique features of their vacation destination. By investing in sustainable tourism, everyone benefits.

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