Average reading time: 5 minutes
Our planet is heating up fast, and the effects of global warming are starting to show more and more every day. Glaciers are melting, sealevels are rising, weather conditions are hitting extremes, animals and plants are going extinct and people are fleeing from uninhabitable lands.
Global warming has many causes, most of them because humans from different industries continue to add tons of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere. The tourism industry is one of those industries. But what’s the actual impact of tourism, both negative and positive? And what can you do yourself to decrease the negative impact of your travels?
The negative impact of tourism
To demonstrate the negative environmental, economical and social impact of tourism, we’ll hand you some key facts about the industry, as well as some facts about global warming in general:
- Since 1906, the global average temperature has increased by 0,9 degrees Celsius.
- Global sealevels are rising with 3,2 millimeters every year.
- Around 90% of the money spent on travel ends up with large international travel companies, leaving only 10% for the local people and local economies.
- The tourism industry is responsible for 8% of the annual CO2-emissions worldwide.
- On average, 55% of the CO2-emissions of a trip is derived from airtravel.
The destination and the form of transportation you choose has a huge impact on the CO2-emissions of a trip. Here’s an example: if a family of four people from Europe goes on a trip to Bali for two weeks, they produce around 16.000 kilograms of CO2-emissions. If they go to the Canary Islands for two weeks, they produce around 4.600 kilograms of CO2-emissions. A two-weeks camping trip to France would only be 750 kilograms of CO2-emissions. In comparison: if this same family just lives their daily life at home, they produce 8.000 kilograms of CO2-emissions every year. We were shocked to find out a trip to Bali equeals the CO2-emissions of two years of living.
The positive impact of tourism
It’s important not to overlook the positive impact of tourism. The tourism industry creates 328 million jobs globally, which means one out of 10 people work in tourism. One out of five jobs in tourism have been created in the past five years due to the industries’ growth. Where the tourism industry grew 3,9% in 2018, the global economy only grew with 3,2%. This illustrates that tourism helps many people make a living.
Another upside to tourism is the increasing intercultural understanding. When people explore countries, cultures, traditions and cuisines different than what they’re used to, it helps them broaden their horizons and be more open-minded towards other ways of living.
Besides, more and more travellers are going for a more sustainable approach in their travels. The sustainable tourism industry is growing with 10% every year, with half of it coming from Europe. It’s predicted that the market for sustainable travel will be 4% of the entire tourism market in 2023.
This is what you can do about it
You might feel overwhelmed reading about the impact of tourism. But luckily, there are many ways you can change the impact of your travels in a positive way. Here are some ideas you can incorporate in your travel behaviour quite easily:
- Try to reduce the amount of CO2-emissions you produce as much as possible (for example, by choosing a cleaner form of transportation) and offset the emissions that are inevitable. You can read our blog about carbon offsetting here.
- Switch to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle by consuming less animal products such as meat, fish and dairy. This also applies to other products, such as cosmetics and clothing. Read our blog about helpful travel apps for vegans here.
- Try to reduce the amount of plastic waste you produce as much as possible, since it’s damaging our oceans a lot. Read our blog about banning plastic while travelling, with lots of useful tips & tricks, here.
- Stay away from animal tourism. In almost all cases it’s harmful for the animals and by paying for it you’re supporting a cruel system. Read our blog about (un)ethical animal tourism and what you should and shouldn’t do here.
- Support local economies instead of large international travel companies. Avoid restaurants and stores you can find anywhere, and instead buy your food, souvenirs and other products from local entrepreneurs. Read our blog about community-based travel and how to do it yourself here.
Sustainable travel companies
If you usually don’t plan your trips by yourself, but get help from tour operators and travel companies, you can also make a difference by choosing these companies wisely. You can do so by carefully checking out their website, reading reviews and looking for companies with trustworthy certificates. Here are five sustainable tour operators and travel companies:
- Intrepid Travel: this travel company has been carbon neutral since 2010. They invested more dan 2,5 million euros in grassroots projects globally and they were the first to stop offering elephant rides. Intrepid Travel only works with local tour guides and are working to double the number of their female employees.
- G Adventures: This is a Canadian enterprise, but they work with small, locally owned companies to help develop rural tourism projects. When you book a trip with G Adventures, they show you a ripple score: the percentage of your money that stays in the local economy.
- B’n’Tree: ‘You travel, we tree’ is B’n’Tree‘s slogan. They’re partnered up with companies like Booking.com, Skyscanner, Agoda, Hostelworld and Tripadvisor. Every time you book something there, B’n’Tree plants a tree for you, without it costing you extra money. Over 100.000 trees have been planted already!
- Much Better Adventures: if you book a trip with this company, 80% of what you pay goes to the local economy and conservation projects. Their trips are mostly short and focused on Europe.
- Undiscovered Mountains: if you’re looking for sustainable, active trips, Undiscovered Mountains is for you. It’s a small travel company offering trips to places in the Alps where tourism benefits the local economy. All guides and suppliers are also locals. And who doesn’t love the Alps?
If you have any questions regarding the impact of tourism, please drop a comment in the comment section below!