How is the climate movement impacting the travel industry?
Posted on 26/09/2019

EcotourismUnited Kingdom

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The climate movement is larger than ever before! Is this widescale change that we're seeing in society having any impact on our travel industry?

Javier Sanchez/123RF

Climate breakdown has always been a hot topic, but it has never been more in the spotlight than it is now. We know the problem is real and we're seeing the impact worldwide; glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising and we're seeing longer and more intense heatwaves. Meanwhile, the younger generations are mobilising, inspired by the tenacious Greta Thunberg and her passionate pursuit to end the crisis we face.

A study has found that tourism is responsible for around 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. At a crucial moment in history when we're fighting to conserve our planet's natural resources in order to stop global temperatures skyrocketing, oceans rising and prevent further ecosystems from collapsing, we need to ask the question: Are UK holidaymakers and travel companies changing their habits for the better? Or is the travel industry ignoring climate breakdown and the need for serious change?


We can already see a major direct impact of rising global temperatures on many of our most beloved travel destinations throughout the world; unless we act fast, these are places that future generations will never see. Rising sea levels mean that many places are under threat: Venice is already sinking into the Adriatic ocean and rising sea levels are only speeding up this process. This beloved, popular tourist destination even features on the World Monuments Fund (WMF) list of places under threat. The Maldives, as the world's lowest-lying country (the average elevation of these sandy islands is 1.3 metres) is already facing the damaging effects of climate breakdown. Many coastal cities (such as Rio de Janeiro and Miami), as well as cities with major rivers (such as London and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam), are also threatened by the rising sea levels. Furthermore, rising temperatures mean that ski resorts and winter sports destinations will soon become unviable holiday destinations. The Great Barrier Reef has already reduced in size due to increased coastal water temperatures and many forests, such as those in Madagascar and the Amazon, are threatened by deforestation and pollution.

The devastating impact of the climate breakdown is clear, but is the threat that many of these (not only popular tourist destinations but) crucial ecosystems alarming enough to deter tourists from travelling or for tourist operators to put drastic policies in place to protect them?

A paper published in nature climate change has forecasted that the tourist industry is going to grow at an annual rate of 4% (which actually outpaces many other sectors) and means that tourism is going to continue to significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions produced. This growth may be great for company profits but, unchecked will continue to have a catastrophic effect on our planet. Increasing wealth and lower air prices make global travel more accessible and affordable than ever and we are finding ourselves in a dichotomy of being able to travel more but being in a position where we should reduce our carbon footprint by avoiding air travel wherever possible. It doesn't seem like people are going to forgo their summer getaway any time soon, so what are travel companies doing to help reduce the impact of this harmful industry?

Many smaller travel companies are leading the way in promoting sustainable tourism by making use of natural resources, local products and renewable energy sources where possible; but we are not seeing the same effort amongst travel giants!

Cathy Yeulet/123RF

Maybe we're not seeing much change right now, but there is certainly change afoot as movements such as the no-fly movement and the actions people are taking in their everyday life. We should all be able to enjoy our holidays, but we need to be at least mindful of the situation we face!


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