Five Sustainability Trends to Watch in 2019
Ever get the feeling that forest fires, record-defying storms, and heavy droughts are more common than they used to be? Or that images of whales, fish, turtles and birds with stomachs full of plastic weren’t such a familiar sight at one point in time? The effects of global warming and unsustainable living are catching up with us, and with that behaviours are changing for the better.
There is certainly reason to be hopeful, as sustainability experts and judges from the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Tourism for Tomorrow Awards programme believe there is ‘a change in the air’ within Travel & Tourism. To reflect these changes and mark the New Year, the WTTC have compiled five sustainability trends to keep on your radar for 2019:
- Greater travel off the beaten track will ease congestion in tourism hubs and spread economic benefits
The last few years have seen a number of negative headlines for overcrowding with images of graffiti-strewn walls in popular tourist destinations telling tourists to stay away. Recognition of a need for greater respect of the rights of residents combined with long queues at iconic sites have encouraged both travellers and destination marketers to start planning and promoting visits to lesser known areas and thus spread the benefits of tourism.
What to expect in 2019: Twinned with a growing desire for exploration and adventure among travellers, expect more attention to be cast on the diverse and unique experiences that visitors can have when they travel across the world.
- Single-use plastic straws have finally broken the camel’s back
Whether at home or away, travellers are increasingly aware of the waste and damage caused by plastic pollution. To avoid seeing beaches, rivers and parks strewn with plastic litter, consumers are willing to change their behaviour and want companies to do the same.
Travel & Tourism has taken up the mantle and many companies have placed outright bans on single use plastics such as straws and bottles. Thomas Cook is looking to remove 70 million pieces of single-use plastics within the next year, for example. Destinations are getting in on the act too, banning plastic bags and introducing deposit schemes for plastic bottles and containers to incentivise recycling. Community- or company-led beach and park clean-ups have become the norm in a number of places around the world, then.
What to expect in 2019: Fewer plastic straws in restaurants, more alternatives to individual plastic shampoo bottles in hotels, and opportunities to join in a clean-up as a part of the tourism experience.
- Conservation of biodiversity starts at home
Travel & Tourism is fast becoming a true ally of the conservation community. As issues of ocean acidification, deforestation and coral bleaching begin to mar the experiences that tourists have, there is greater recognition from consumers of the need to protect the land and waters from the things that are destroying them and more action on the part of companies and destinations in doing so. In this way, we can more directly connect our consumption behaviours at home with the impacts we see while travelling.
Authorities in marine park locations have put bans in place on sunscreens that contain the coral-destroying chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. Already made illegal in Palau, Hawaii has now passed regulation that will come into effect in 2021 while other destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico are also encouraging visitors to use alternatives.
On land, as interest in trips to see wildlife in their native habitat continues to rise, tourists will see how valuing and protecting the land through controlled tourism can ultimately result in greater protection of the animals.
What to expect in 2019: Increased banishment of harmful toxins and unnecessary additives in products, including palm oil. Greater interest in wildlife-based tourism that sees animals in their natural state and enriches surrounding communities.
- Global travel sector prioritises local people and practices
Travel & Tourism companies are working to ensure that they bring real benefit to the communities that support their operations while also realising that local communities can provide significant benefits of their own. As local crafts and culture are often high on the list of experiences that visitors want, ‘farm to table’ dining thrives, and interest is raised in the unique cultures of indigenous people, the connection to the communities strengthen.
In a major tie-up, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has partnered with WWF promising only to offer sustainable tours by certified operators by the end of 2019. At another level, the adventure operator G Adventures has a ‘ripple score’ through which customers can see how much of the tour’s spend stays in the community.
What to expect in 2019: Customers will really begin to realise that the companies they travel with can have tangible impacts in creating sustainable change in the communities where they operate.
- Behaviour change is not only requested but rewarded
We’ve been seeing signs in hotel bathrooms for over 20 years asking us to think of the environment and use our towels more than once. Now, instead of polite requests for change, companies are providing incentives to change behaviours. Vouchers for the gift shop or to be used in the restaurant, added loyalty points or donations to charity are the lures that companies are using to tempt customers into forgoing a room clean or fresh towels.
What to expect in 2019: As companies look to save money and cut down on their cleaning products, energy usage and water use at the same time, 2019 will see more companies using financial and emotional incentives to prompt more sustainable customer behaviour.
Source: World Travel & Tourism Council