The Negative Environmental Impacts of Tourism

The weather this summer has been all over the place! We’ve had heat waves, drought, forest fires, and abundant rains. These extreme conditions have made us increasingly aware of climate change and its effects on our planet.

To what extent is the travel industry contributing to this?

I’m not sure, but it’s something we should be thinking about. When we travel, we often fly or drive long distances. This creates a lot of pollution that contributes to climate change.

We need to be mindful of the way we travel and try to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible. There are many ways we can do this, such as taking public transportation or ridesharing instead of driving ourselves; eating locally sourced food; and choosing hotels that have green initiatives in place.

The travel industry is one of the world’s most emissions-intensive sectors, and it’s growing fast. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) projects that global air traffic will more than double by 2037. If unchecked, this could produce a threefold increase in greenhouse gas emissions from aviation.

The tourism industry has long been aware of the environmental impact it has, and recent studies have shown that this impact is only going to grow in the years to come. In order to try and offset some of these effects, the industry is now pledging to become climate-neutral by 2050. This will be no easy task, as emissions from aviation are particularly difficult to reduce. However, with concerted effort from all stakeholders involved, it may be possible for the tourism industry to make strides towards a more sustainable future.

Are there ways to make the industry more sustainable?

IATA has set a target of halving carbon intensity from aviation by 2050 relative to 2005 levels. And there are promising signs that this is achievable: A recent study by Boston Consulting Group found that improvements in aircraft design and operations could reduce CO2 emissions from airlines by up to 70 percent between now and 2035.

There are also opportunities for the travel industry to help reduce deforestation — an important contributor to climate change. According to the World Wildlife Fund, tourism accounts for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with much of this coming from transportation and accommodation. Hotels, in particular, can play an important role in reducing their environmental impact. Marriott International, for example, has pledged to reduce its energy consumption 25 percent per square foot.

This summer, we have been increasingly aware of climate change as heat waves, drought and forest fires have made headlines across the globe. In particular, this past summer has been one of the hottest on record – in North America, Europe and Asia alike. And it’s not just temperature that is on the rise: extreme weather events are becoming more common due to climate change.

What does this mean for tourism?

As temperatures continue to increase and extreme weather becomes more common, destinations that were once popular tourist spots may no longer be viable options. Already we are seeing a shift in where people are travelling; according to data from Forward Keys, tropical destinations such as Bali and Phuket have seen a decrease in bookings this year as travelers look for cooler places to holiday. Destinations that experience frequent natural disasters or political unrest may also see a decline in visitors as tourists become increasingly wary about safety issues abroad.

So what can be done?

While individual travelers can take steps such as choosing low-emission transport options or offsetting their carbon footprint, it is also important for businesses within the travel industry – including airlines, hotel chains and tour operators –to do their part in reducing emissions. Many companies are already making strides towards becoming more sustainable, but there is still much work to be done. For example, Emirates Airlines has announced plans to reduce its CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020; Hilton Hotels Corporation has set a goal of reducing energy consumption by 30 percent across its portfolio by 2030; And TUI Group aims to cut its CO2 output per customer journey by 50 percent by 2025.

Ultimately, it will take collective action from both individuals and businesses if we want to make significant progress in combating climate change –and that includes making sustainable choices when travelling

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