Sustainable Tourism: It’s Practicality, Complications, and Necessity
Sustainable practices and developments are necessary if we ever hope to achieve a circular economy and slow the negative consequences of our actions against this world — and we have to act quickly. Right now, 1,000,000 marine creatures die yearly from plastic waste. Additionally, studies show that fossil fuels — which we heavily depend on for water distribution, electricity, heat, and transportation — seem to be running out. According to the Ecotricity Group, our oil deposits will only last until 2052; we’ll be out of natural gas by 2060; and coal will be depleted by 2088. This leaves us in a desperate position, with not much time to figure out how we’ll obtain massive amounts of our energy in the future.
We are certainly in desperate need for sustainable developments. They allow us to use less energy and produce less waste. It’s necessary at this point that we start taking responsibility for our world and saving it for future generations, as well as all of the life that exists on planet Earth.
Some of the most egregious wastes of resources that we’re suffering from come from the tourism industry. The depletion of water resources, land degradation, and contributions to world pollution have been heavily documented. For instance, did you know that cruise ships produce over 100 million gallons of petroleum products and 210,000 gallons of sewage into the oceans each year? Tourism as an industry is most likely here to stay, so it is becoming increasingly clear that things need to change from the inside.
The Effects of Tourism
Warming oceans due to high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and rising sea levels are changing our planet, and we’re running out of resources to maintain our ways of life for much longer.
The blame doesn’t completely fall on players in the tourist industry, but they do have a strong environmental impact. Vacation resorts, luxury cruises, and similar endeavors tend to use a large amount of fossil fuels and natural resources to provide their products. For instance, did you know that tourism contributes to more than 5 percent of the greenhouse effect, and that transportation is 90 percent of that?
Additionally, tourism tends to negatively impact local populations of tourist destinations. Part of any kind of international business endeavor, even tourism, is navigating international customs and audiences, and that means respecting the culture and the place they come from. Where a lot of companies go wrong with this, however, is they elevate profit concerns over considerations regarding the local environment or culture.
A recent example of this kind of resort gentrification was the Fyre Festival. Though it imploded, it took place on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma. Some performers spoke out against it, calling the resort island “racist” and “classist.” Endeavors like this tend to use resources irresponsibly, not only wasting them but depriving the local communities who need them.
Profits Over Sustainability
Attempts at progress toward sustainable tourist activities have brought a lot of success. Unfortunately, it’s also had some negative consequences, bringing into question the ethics of some of these moves. One of the primary examples of this is the “sharing economy.”
Sharing economy practices were initially put in place so tourists could experience a new city like a local, rather than waste resources. While Airbnbs were initially a solution to new hotels being built and taking away from local economies, they’ve led to gentrification. This has actually spurred some cities to push back against them, since there were cases in which landlords used Airbnbs unethically to push their tenants away for more money. Places they were living were turned into luxury spots, much like a new hotel being built where people lived.
With any good thing, there tends to come negative side effects. In the case of Airbnb, some of the people who got involved in the movement used it for the wrong reasons. So progress can sometimes be halted by those with ill intent or who are blinded to the ramifications of their actions.
A New Hope
The story is not over yet, as people are becoming aware of these things. The tourism industry would do well to recognize where they can change and what ethical practices they can utilize. As resorts operate similarly to communities, it would be wise of them to learn from communities that have taken large environmental steps.
Right now, they could learn a lot from civil engineers, who are making incredible headway in everyday sustainability:
- Plastic roads based off of the ones India started using in the early 2000s are being researched in the United States as well as the United Kingdom by these professionals, and hopefully will be utilized soon.
- Floating homes — which are exactly what they sound like — may be used in the future in order to eliminate land damage from new living spaces being constructed.
- Large-scale rain harvesting is being studied for the purpose of climate adaptability as it’s always been, but it’s being accomplished in larger ways than before.
Tourist companies could utilize these practices to create luxurious places, reduce expenses in the long run, and reduce their environmental impact.
On a large scale, convenience stops progress. However, there are communities making significant headway toward sustainability across the world that tourist resorts could garner ideas from. One that sticks out in an unlikely place is The Sustainable City in Dubai, which is literally a city built on sustainable practices. It guarantees complete water and waste recycling and primarily uses solar energy due to the grand amount of solar panels they’ve installed in houses. With the money resorts and hotels tend to make, there’s no doubt they could utilize these practices if they chose to, though it would require them being a bit less greedy with their profit margins.
It’s a worldwide process that requires the collective efforts of those around the entire planet. Thankfully, we’re not alone in knowing that. Shanghai has been making headway in this, challenging Chinese companies, as well as those from foreign lands, to utilize sustainable practices. Hopefully, the western world can learn from this and begin utilizing sustainable practices so the future of our world is preserved.
What ideas do you have for sustainable tourism? How do you think they should be enacted, and what do you think any negative consequences or push back might be? Please share in the comments below!