Is sustainable tourism sustainable?

Tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, bringing tremendous economic benefits to destinations. But as the world becomes more accessible, tourism can become a double-edged sword, bringing with it overtourism – hordes of tourists that strain a destination’s infrastructure and resources.

In addition, travel contributes to the single-use economy as well, no thanks to plastic cups used onboard aeroplanes to unused blocks of soaps in hotels that have to be thrown away. Even flying itself is deemed shameful nowadays.

Tourism will never be completely sustainable, but we can all work towards a common goal of making it more sustainable

But on the alternative end of overtourism is sustainability, a buzzword throughout 2019, and I believe 2020 as well. This comes as the tourism sector discovers ways and means to make tourism both beneficial and sustainable.

From destinations like New Zealand and Thailand, to tourism services like airlines and cruise liners, to international hospitality companies like Marriott and Pan Pacific Hotels Group, many private stakeholders in the tourism sector have clambered on the sustainability bandwagon.

Numerous efforts undertaken by these companies include switching to large-format bathroom amenities, minimising carbon emissions by using fuel more efficiently, the introduction of limits to renowned attractions, and employing various zero-waste tactics to minimise food wastage.

But as sustainability has now moved beyond single-use plastics and recycling, a more conscientious approach is also required, according to a report by B2B4E travel management platform CWT. This means that companies in the tourism sector need to look at all aspects of the supply chain – from reducing their environmental footprint by sourcing locally to choosing a sustainable venue for their events, to helping to tackle human trafficking and promote gender diversity in the various industries.

I couldn’t agree more.

Cliché as it might sound, every little bit will help. But with the combined efforts of the private sector and the government, perhaps we may be able to better balance development and sustainability, and leave a lighter footprint wherever our feet take us.

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