Tourism & sustainability: two opposing concepts?


Now that our well-earned and long-awaited holidays are near, we wish to discuss the sustainability of our travel.

What does travel have to do with global warming and climate change? Well, although we don’t like to admit it, the answer is quite a lot.  It is clear that this is not the only human activity that has led to this stressful situation for our plant, but it is clear that human mobility in the last century has involved the consumption of natural resources and the emission of polluting gases into the atmosphere like never before.

If we wish to be sustainable with our planet, should we stop travelling? It is not easy to provide an answer to this question. Obviously, if you want to kill a snake, you cut off the head. However, there may be another solution, and no doubt we and those areas receiving our tourism would be grateful.

What is indeed clear is that we should change many consumption habits involved in our leisure time. It is not fair for pleasure and wellbeing to damage society as a whole. It is necessary for both suppliers in the tourism sector and tourists themselves to be aware of the situation and bear in mind what actions should be carried out. The former, by integrating sustainability into their business model; the latter, by exploring existing possibilities for counteracting the pollution produced.

Tourism suppliers, at any level of their value chain, can carry out positive actions for counteracting the negative impact that their business activity involves. These following are some examples:

  •  Increasing the energy efficiency of their facilities to save natural resources.
  •  Saving drinking water: installing the mechanisms necessary limiting use to what is strictly necessary, recovering first us water for washing, irrigation, etc. Reducing the daily kilos of dirty washing (how many times have we left a bathroom towel hanging in order for it to be reused and then found it changed for a clean one) etc. Service providers need training and users need information.
  •  Reducing pollution from transport: efficiency in trips, use of electrical energy, etc.
  •  Reducing single-use plastic packaging.
  • Controlling the waste produced in restaurants by adopting zero or low food waste strategies.
  • Hiring staff with a fair wage for the work they do and a timetable in line with the customs and conventions of each place.
  • Hiring staff with disabilities or who might be in danger of social exclusion, given their personal situation.
  • Applying supplier procurement policies. This means that only those suppliers will be used that can show their products or services comply with certain sustainability requisites similar to the ones the contractor applies.
  • Procuring km zero products and services, i.e. providing economic growth opportunities to those communities where the activity is located; in this case, the training to be delivered would be fundamental.
  • Establishing connections with communities close to the activity, and reinvesting in them part of the profit obtained thanks to the resources (natural, cultural, personal, etc.) that these communities offer visitors.
  • Informing travellers that actions must be carried out so that their negative impact on the place they visit is the minimum possible, providing ideas and options for the impact to become positive.
  • Etc.   

There are many possibilities for counteracting the negative impact of travel, and these are just some examples. Each person, bearing in mind their specific circumstances, can apply those that are most efficient. In principle, implementing a sustainable strategy in a business can involve a series of investments or costs affecting short-term profitability, but the return is unquestionably guaranteed.  

Our company is heading towards a greater awareness of sustainability, and therefore this without a doubt can be a factor differentiating us from the competition. Tourists will no doubt be grateful for any suggestion for improving our planet and the tourist destinations that have given them so much pleasure.

M. Eugènia Bailach, Auren Spain