Building back better demands more thoughtful tourism

Photo of airplane wing and Bawah Reserve islands
Image credit: Bawah Reserve

COVID-19 has demonstrated that changes must be made in order to support and secure the future of travel. Along with elevated safety protocols, a genuine commitment to sustainability provides a roadmap to a more responsible travel industry.

While every major industry in the world has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism — which represents 10 percent of world GDP — has been one of the hardest-hit economic sectors.

Even as national borders slowly reopen, the uncertainty associated with travel continues. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) report on Related Travel Restrictions released in May, international tourism arrivals are expected to decline 58-78 percent compared to 2019.

As businesses focus on how to not only survive but recover from the impact of the pandemic, many are turning to more purposeful, people-centric solutions. Driven by growing consumer demand for better business practices, the crisis has forced organisations to examine their social and environmental impacts. It has also brought to the fore how central the United NationsSustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are in supporting the responsible recovery of the tourism sector.

In June, the UNWTO released its One Planet Vision for the Responsible Recovery of the Tourism Sector — a strategic guide aimed at helping travel businesses emerge stronger from the crisis while still contributing to the SDGs.

The One Planet Vision is structured around six lines of action to guide responsible tourism recovery for people, planet and prosperity: public health, social inclusion, biodiversity conservation, climate action, circular economy, and governance and finance.

In the report, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili says: “Sustainability must no longer be a niche part of tourism but must be the new norm for every part of our sector. This is one of the central elements of our Global Guidelines to Restart Tourism. It is in our hands to transform tourism and that emerging from COVID-19 becomes a turning point for sustainability.”

Smart travel businesses looking to use this pause for a thoughtful shift towards sustainable consumption and production patterns could learn a thing or two from the renowned purposeful paradise, Bawah Reserve.

This is an excerpt from an article by Lindsay Grace Kinniburgh, originally published on Sustainable Brands

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