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Sustainability is a key issue for the industry as it prepares for recovery. The fast-moving pandemic has been severely disrupting tourism and its impact will change the industry, academic engagement, and customer behaviour. The question many destinations are now asking is how can we be sustainable post COVID-19? We dedicate our tenth Tourism Impact call to discussing sustainability and how this is an opportunity for the industry to change for the better.

Every Tuesday at 14:00 GMT / 15:00 CET, we will hold a weekly 30 minute 'Tourism Impact Call' to give the lay of the land in terms of what's happening, how the industry is responding and we will provide a weekly summary. Open to all, every perspective welcome. Join Call

Week 10 - 19/05/2020

This week we were joined by Dr Cara Augustenborg, an Environmental Policy Fellow at University College Dublin in Ireland, specialising in climate policy and politics. In a full interview with the #DTTT, Cara discussed environmental policies and the opportunities for destinations to implement sustainability in their recovery plans. Here are the key takeaways.

Key Takeaways

 

Sustainability vs Uncontrollability

As Dr Cara Augustenborg explains, everything we do has an impact. However, as only 20% of the world’s population has been on a plane, this is a problem beyond carbon footprint. We are in a climate and biodiversity emergency. From destination level, there is the fragile balance between protecting nature and biodiversity and damaging it. During COVID-19, we have seen a 5% reduction in emissions, but this is not enough and more needs to be done. We need to get out of the mentality of flying and look for more sustainable solutions.

The pandemic has pushed the tourism industry to respond drastically, innovate new practices, and quickly respond to shifts in culture. These immediate responses within the industry may be unsustainable in the long-term. Improving industry sustainability is difficult during the crisis, with the loss of jobs, and drop in travellers and industry revenue. These uncontrollable factors have negatively impacted the industry, however by facing this adversity, the industry now has an opportunity to change the for the better.

This is an Opportunity for Destinations to Educate people

There has been much discussion about Tourism’s impact on the environment, with many of us seeing the positive impacts of global lockdown on the environment. Flying, for example, comprises on average 20% of a person’s carbon footprint. Prior to COVID-19, the Flight shaming movement began, educating people about the impact of flying on the environment. As a result of this, people began to reduce their flying due to environmental concerns. For the industry, there needs to be transparency so that consumers are better informed.

Cruise Ships have also come under the environmental spotlight, due to the number of COVID-19 infections onboard and also their environmental practices. Tourists may see cruising as positive for the environment, but this is not the case. A passenger’s carbon footprint triples in size when taking a cruise. Not only this, but data reveals that standing on the deck of a cruise ship is similar to being in one of the world’s most polluted cities. It is only now that people are becoming aware of the negative impact of cruises.

For destinations, the lack of tourism is giving nature a chance to recover. Destinations can now carry out essential maintenance and voluntary work. Post COVID-19, we will see a more environmentally aware world, with people influenced by the positive impacts of nature during lockdown. This is a great time for destinations to take leadership in educating people. Visitors can gain insights and knowledge about the nature and culture of the destination and they can also be assured that the people there have adopted environmentally sustainable practices to protect their culture, land and heritage.

Going forward, people must be educated on the benefits of green spaces and green travel. For businesses, they can adapt and pivot to shift their offer. It has been noted that customers respond well to businesses that educate themselves and their staff and then communicate to visitors about the environmental impacts and how they can be reduced. People want to know what destinations are doing to protect the environment, and even more so during COVID-19.

Redesigning the System is required 

For the system to change, destinations must look at the Macro picture. Destinations need to encourage people to use more efficient methods of travel on an individual level, but also work on the electrification of transport and invest in infrastructure. It is a great time to redesign cities, create more sustainable modes of travel and give people a better choice of options. With “Staycations” becoming the "new normal", people will be opting for low-impact, outdoor activity holidays that involve nature, walking, cycling and local volunteering or clean-ups, like the Inishbofin Work Fund, a voluntary scheme on the eco-tourist destination, Inishbofin Island. Destinations need to ensure they are prepared for the change in consumer mindset and behaviour and redesign the system to be more eco-friendly and sustainable.

Use Data to Improve Destination Sustainability

It is important that destinations use the data available to have a good understanding of their environmental situations. This starts with baseline monitoring, introducing new measures and new steps for green brand and destination. By hiring and environmental consultant to do an impact assessment and looking at comparable data within the industry, destinations and businesses can achieve sustainable development goals.

Transform Destinations to Enhance the Visitor Experience

For the industry and destinations, this is a chance for them to pivot and offer something new, with a strong focus on sustainability and Ecotourism.  Destinations can transform themselves by promoting responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, which in turn sustains the well-being of locals and also enhances the visitor experience. Destinations will experience far greater levels of prosperity when they shift the primary purpose from profit to people, and offer more benefits for stakeholders. This is a chance for the industry to reinvent itself, for the people and the planet.

At the #DTTT, we believe that there needs to be more awareness of the need for sustainability.  The industry needs to implement simple, quick, profitable measures to feed into long term sustainability goals. There is a strong demand for the industry to change and now is the perfect opportunity to do it.

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