If we ever evaluate the changing travel industry trends, we can always point to pre and post-pandemic eras. Covid-19 has changed the way people view the world and its environment. Earlier, people could move freely without any restrictions, but now everything comes under scrutiny and obligations. Perhaps, after a while, climate change may be the biggest challenge for the tourism Industry.
Recent climate change events such as Melting Glaciers, Amazon and Australian forest Wildfires, droughts, and depletion of water tables, are alarming situations in this modern world. Tourism accounts for more than 5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with transportation contributing to 90 per cent. People disrupt natural resources contribute to pollution, waste, and damage, and end up ultimately destroying the ecosystem upon which tourism depends. Thus, Sustainable Tourism is the need of the hour.
Responsible tourism is a greener alternative to drive the host country's economic, social, and cultural needs without damaging their integrity, ecology, wildlife, and cultural heritage. It helps the country conserve its biodiversity, ecosystem, generate sustainable livelihoods, and improve human well-being. There are three parameters that Responsible tourism is based on - Environmental Sustainability, Social Sustainability, and Economic Sustainability.
According to the studies based on these parameters, Scandinavian, Nordic and Baltic countries have successfully implemented eco-tourism or sustainable tourism thoroughly. Sweden serves as a role model to all developed nations in implementing climate-friendly policies, conserving biodiversity, pollution-free transportation, uplifting rural and regional tourism. The country became the birthplace of the Flight Shame movement where it discouraged people from flying to lower carbon emissions.
Speaking of carbon emissions, let's look at a country quietly contributing to preserving nature in the best possible way-Bhutan. It is the only carbon negative country in the world. It means that the country absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces annually. This is because around 70per cent of the country is covered in trees and their constitution even passed a bill that mandates to preserve 60per cent of the forest land. The country thrives on eco-tourism by charging a sustainable fee from all the travellers. Maybe this is why the country focuses more on Gross National Happiness (GNP) than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure the collective happiness and well-being of the population.
What role do these tourists and tour operators play?
The entire framework of Responsible Tourism rests on the shoulders of travellers and tour operators. They have the power to make or break any given opportunity to preserve nature. Tour operators have successfully contributed to the development of isolated areas, long-lost art forms, as well as culture. The curated experience designed by these agencies provide acomplete ambiance of the culture of a country, the handicrafts, agri-farming, textiles, arts, food, and people. More and more hidden and beautiful places are becoming accessible to tourists, which eventually create opportunities for the small communities to represent their cultures and earn their livelihood and resources.
In the post-pandemic era, the role of travellers will be vital to help the global economy recover. Many countries have faced the wrath of Covid-19 impacts and global economic slowdown. Once the borders are open, tourism can give these worst-hit countries the much-needed boost and economic drive. They need to become more environmentally conscious, adopt sustainable measures, use more eco-friendly vehicles, consume less electric power, avoid plastics usage, and participate in environmental cleaning drives.
The time has come for tour operators and travellers to evolve, lean towards the environmental cause, and lead the travel industry to become more sustainable. These developments, practices, and lifestyle changes play a significant role in saving this beautiful and thriving planet for years to come.
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