The pandemic which has devastated the tourism industry has also thrown up an opportunity for a reset of the industry, with a greater focus on sustainability, said travel and tourism players at an open group text chat session entitled, Sustainability is the New Normal, held during the Virtual PATA Travel Mart 2020.
The session, which took place on September 24, was moderated by Graham Harper, director, sustainability & social responsibility, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
An attendee, Budhchinakorn Wattanapalachaikoon, described Covid-19 as a “good wake up call” for the tourism industry.
“The lockdowns we see around the world has allowed nature to heal, albeit temporarily. We can see what sustainability actually looks like… wild flowers blooming again, less pollution, wildlife returning, etc.”
In the past, he shared, there have been many instances of mass tourism creating overcapacity issues at tourist attractions such as world heritage sites.
He believed this was the right time for tourism stakeholders to brainstorm long-term solutions to issues such as the environmental impact of overtourism so that future generations can continue to enjoy positive experiences from their travels.
Another attendee, Akansha Dariyani, membership relations associate at PATA, shared that sustainable tourism also entailed tourism dollars flowing to local communities, and suggested empowering locals through knowledge and improving infrastructure accessibility.
Sayeda Abir, chairperson, PATA Bangladesh Dhaka University Student Chapter, described sustainability as a “game-changer” for tourism and that industry stakeholders must take responsibility for the environmental impacts of tourism, instead of relying on the government to take action.
Attendee, Jimena Rodriguez, opined that environmental sustainability should be part of “normal life”, and that its positive aspects should be introduced to the masses from an early age.