How Does Tourism Impact Climate Change?

Tourism is a vibrant industry that is classified as one of the largest in the world. This claim can be buttressed by the fact that it made a global economic contribution of over 7.6 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016, which is no surprise, as travel is an activity that people enjoy no matter their home country or cultural norms. However, how many people think about the environmental implications of thriving tourism? 

The United Nations World Tourism Organization approximates that tourism is responsible for 5 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. For this reason, and many others, in 2015, the Paris Climate Accord was signed by numerous countries in an attempt to keep temperature increases below a certain threshold. Countries and industries have decided to join forces and work together to help mitigate the effects of global warming. 

With that being said, while those in power will be able to have the most effect, it is not the responsibility of industry leaders to tackle climate change alone. A bottom-up approach can also be taken to help reduce the global carbon footprint that tourism is leaving.

Choose Green Companies 

One of the ways to negate the negative impact that tourism is having on climate change would be by choosing green companies when making plans. Making a conscious decision to use travel agents or resorts that are actively working towards reducing their carbon emission levels can make a greater impact than people may think, even if on an individual level it doesn’t feel like a lot. By choosing such companies when traveling, however, you’re not only contributing to reducing the pace of climate change — you’re also telling bigger companies what is important to you as the consumer, and hopefully enticing them to make similar changes in their own business models.

A primary example of a company working toward reducing CO2 emissions within their travel niche is Royal Caribbean. Specifically, their ships have purification systems that remove about 98 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions from its ship engines’ exhaust, while also implementing plans to buy clean power to offset the emissions that are burned by their ships.

Another company making a concentrated effort to help the planet is private jet company TCS World Travel, who is supporting two carbon reduction projects in Peru and Cambodia by offsetting their emissions entirely and making a charitable difference in the process. While these are just two of several examples of companies that are making small and significant strides towards a greener tourism sector, if you dig deeper, you may also be able to find agents that plan environmentally-friendly trips for you on top of it all.

Look for Alternatives to Flying 

Transport apparently contributes to 75% of all emissions produced by the tourism industry. This means if the industry truly aims to offset the effects of climate change, they have to explore alternatives that will reduce CO2 emissions. As a traveler, you should also keep this in mind, especially in situations where you have a choice. 

Seeing as air travel produces more carbon emissions than trains, it would help if you opted to take the train, especially when taking trips that aren’t long-haul. When traveling locally, you could also take a car or RV instead of flying, which would allow for a reduction in your own personal fuel consumption. Carpooling is another way to even further help the environment and improve your mileage in the process. 

During times that you’re traveling and need to get around to tour the city, this is another opportunity to choose green alternatives. For example, choose to ride a bike when sightseeing rather than taking public transport where available. Meanwhile, if you decide to rent a car, opt for an electric or hybrid vehicle to reduce your CO2 emissions. 

All of these actions are ways for you to indirectly support environmental and political change while traveling as you’re taking a stand for what you believe in as supporting political efforts simultaneously. 

Plan Events During Warmer Months 

While some people travel for adventure, others do so to celebrate an occasion or host an event. When this is the case, make an effort to be mindful so that it’s favorable to both you, your guests, and the environment. For example, planning events during warmer months is one of many ways to go about this. 

If you’re planning a wedding, organize it for late spring or early summer. By choosing this time of the year, you won’t have to hunt for a warmer destination which requires travel. It also means that your friends and family won’t have to travel far which cuts down the amount of carbon emission that you and your guests would have used to travel cumulatively. 

When choosing a venue for your event, prioritize those who use clean energy or are working towards doing so. It could be a hotel that uses eco-friendly appliances or a cogeneration plant that uses a heat engine or power station to generate electricity. No matter how miniscule these details seem, they make a difference in the grand scheme of things. 

The unfortunate truth is that tourism and climate change are inseparable — and as one is affected, so is the other, both for the good and for the bad. It is, therefore, in the best interest of travel lovers, industry leaders, and professionals to join forces and ensure that tourism does its part in making the planet a better place for future generations. 

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