Will the pandemic turn us into more conscious travellers?

In Responsible Travel's family safari, visitors are guided by Kenya's indigenous Masai people. Courtesy Basecamp Explorer
For its family safari in Kenya, Responsible Travel partners with a local operator, which works in partnership with the Maasai community and supports local wildlife through conservation and education, along with re-forestation efforts. Courtesy Basecamp Explorer

No one imagined that the global travel industry could ever come to a complete standstill, but once it did earlier this year, we grew accustomed to our plane-less skies.

But as international flights begin to take off again and we tentatively pencil in travel plans, it is time to ask ourselves: “What kind of traveller do we want to be?”

Confined to their own towns, cities and villages across the world, seasoned travellers have been forced to appreciate what’s on their own turf. And even if we do choose to travel this year, we must be conscious of where we go, how we travel and our behaviour once we get there.

While Covid-19 has dealt crippling blows to the travel industry, camper van conversion companies around the world are experiencing a surge in interest, indicating a turning tide away from air travel. Whether we like it or not, tourism has become more conscious, catalysing the slow-travel movement that was beginning to ferment long before the pandemic hit.

Thanks in no small part to the likes of teenage climate-change activist Greta Thunberg, broadcaster and natural historian Sir David Attenborough and Hollywood celebrities including Jane Fonda and Leonardo DiCaprio drawing attention to the climate emergency even before Covid-19 struck, consumers were already starting to make increasingly conscious choices when booking holidays. This is a particularly prevalent trend among younger consumers.

A study in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change found that tourism as a whole contributes up to 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Finally catching on to the consequences of their wanderlust, 85 per cent of millennial and Generation Z travellers say they want to make sure any far-flung trips are worth the corresponding carbon footprint. They are more willing to spend time on activities that offset the environmental impact of their stay in their chosen holiday destination, according to a recent survey by holiday accommodation booking platform Booking.com.

“It’s often the children of the families choosing our vacations who are driving the environmental agenda and their parents’ purchasing decision,” says Dave Waddell at Journeys by Design and Wild Philanthropy, specialists in responsible frontier and classic African safaris.

This is an excerpt from an article originally published by The National UAE.

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