A return to the ‘old normal’ would be a disaster

A return to the 'old normal' would be a disaster

With each passing day, the grave future of Earth becomes more stark. The disruption of COVID-19 has not been enough to shift the trajectory, nor has it prompted polluting sectors of the economy to reconsider the harms they inflict on the planet.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the global tourism sector. Before COVID-19, international aviation emissions – already a major contributor to global warming – were forecast to potentially triple between 2015 and 2050. Likewise, emissions from the cruise ship industry were also growing.

The pandemic itself can be traced back to humanity’s relentless damage to nature. And mass global tourism is emblematic of this voracious, growth-at-all-costs mentality.

Tourism brings many economic, social and cultural benefits. But it’s time the industry seriously reconsiders its business model, and overall purpose, in a post-pandemic world.

We can’t return to normal

The United Nations is among many voices urging the global tourism industry to address its many sustainability challenges in the wake of COVID-19.

The UN says it recognises tourism’s important role in providing incomes for millions of people. But in a recent policy brief, it said now is the time to “rethink how the sector impacts our natural resources and ecosystems”.

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence that global tourism is looking to transform. For example, the International Air Transport Association is clearly seeking to return to the “old normal”. Its resources guide to support airlines during the pandemic and beyond examines ways to restart the industry, but makes no mention of environmental sustainability.

Similarly, the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 100 Million Jobs Recovery Plan calls on nations to remove barriers to travel, saying traveller confidence is “critical to the sector’s survival and recovery”. Sustainability rates only get a passing a mention.

This is an excerpt of an article by Susanne Becken, originally published on THE CONVERSATION.

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