They are calling it the great pause. Life as we know it has come to a standstill and we are not sure when or if it will ever get back to “normal”. The tourism industry has been hit more than most with estimates saying that up to 100 million people have lost their jobs. Many people want to get things back to how things were but I disagree. It’s human disregard to the environment that got us in this mess and on this World Environment Day 2020 I think we should all reflect on what normal should look like going into the future.
The Great Reflection
Maybe this time should be called the great reflection. I know a lot of people, myself included have enjoyed quite a few aspects of the Covid-19 lockdown and reflected on what I would like to keep doing post lockdown. One of my biggest joys during these past few weeks is being able to just sit in my garden. I have heard way more bird sounds and noticed a lot more butterflies than in the past. Nature is truly a healer with more and more health departments around the world prescribing “Green Therapy“. Recent studies have shown that green therapy can have the same results as prescribed drugs for people with depression. We are only just starting to realise the benefits of the natural world on the human psyche. Shouldn’t we all fight to protect it?
Pay more to travel
So does that mean I will never travel again? No, not at all. I live for travel. Ever since visiting Brasov in Romania way back in 1989, the wanderlust has never ceased. However, I think I should pay more to travel. On average I take 24 flights a year. In 2013 an estimated 70% of all flights taken in the UK were taken by just 15% of the population. 57% of the population didn’t take a flight at all that year. I am one of those in the 15% bracket. The proposals are that I pay a frequent flier tax for all the flights I take. I would be happy to pay that tax. I don’t think it is fair on the normal holidaymaker to pay extra to fly but it is for us 15%.
That 15% is mostly made up of business travellers. I hope that most businesses have now realised that they can easily conduct most meetings online instead of flying people halfway around the world.
Do we really want to go back to this?
Venice, Barcelona and Prague were empty. Nature does have irony. Only a few months ago the buzz word in the tourism sector was Overtourism. The 3 cities I mentioned were so overcrowded that locals couldn’t even get home from work without encountering hordes of tour groups. Now those cities are crying out for tourists. I am not saying that we should ban tourists from visiting these wonderful cities but it should be managed more sustainably.
Both Venice and Barcelona welcome Cruise Ships. Research has shown that the cruise industry is one of the most polluting in tourism and that the economic benefits that cruise passengers bring to a destination are minimal as they tend to have all their meals and drinks included on the cruise. They also book tours directly from the cruise company. I should know, I have taken cruises (before I realised their impact) and that is exactly what I did.
For us people in the travel industry from Travel Bloggers to Travel PR firms, from Travel Agents to Tourism Boards I say we need to rethink what kind of industry we want in the future. Should Travel Bloggers promote destinations that are so overcrowded that their readers would surely come back disappointed?
Maybe PR firms can try to cross-promote destinations? For example, if a PR firm has a Caribbean Island and a Central American country on their books, wouldn’t it be better to send journalists and content creators to both of these destinations on one trip instead of multiple trips?
I know some tourism boards are now promoting less-visited destinations in their country and are doing so in partnership with the local population. One of the things we have decided on doing is to cut out the quick short flights for a long weekend away. We will try and combine that type of trip into a longer one.
Economy Environment, Stupid!
One of Bill Clinton’s policy advisers coined this phrase ‘it’s the economy stupid’. The intention was to get the campaigners to focus on one single thing – the economy. Every election ever since has had the same successful strategy. It is time for that word to change from economy to environment because if there is no planet there is no economy.
Covid-19 is not unique no matter how much we would like to think it is. Scientists are saying that there are a lot deadlier viruses out there. The more humanity encroaches on the natural world the more likely we will have another outbreak. It is up to all of us to try our utmost to try and prevent that from happening.
The Tourism Industry can help achieve this. If the industry promotes more responsible tourism practices more travellers will follow them. Who doesn’t want to see wildlife thriving in their natural environment? We all want to visit a site and not have to queue for hours to get in. All beaches and oceans should be clean.
We are at a crossroads for our species. We can either carry on as before and leave our grandchildren a horrible environment to live in or we can all make positive changes and leave behind us a world where a visiting alien would be jealous. Let’s make World Environment Day 2020 the latter. Be the change you want to see in the world.