4 ways to rebuild tourism for a more sustainable future after the coronavirus pandemic
Today, we find ourselves in a place we never could have dreamed — asking our travelers to stay home after 31 years of helping them explore the world. While this situation is heartbreaking in so many ways, it also provides the travel industry with the opportunity to pause and reflect on our wrongdoings, and spend this time challenging ourselves to emerge from this crisis better than we were before — more sustainable, more ethical, more empowered, more responsible.
Travel Can Only Rebound Stronger If It Rebuilds More Responsibly. B Corp Intrepid Travel Shares 4 Ways to Rebuild the Tourism Industry for a More Sustainable Future.
I’ve heard people saying that we were living through the golden age of travel until COVID-19 brought it to a screeching halt. But the reality is that the golden age of travel ended some time ago.
Somewhere along the way, travel — which is meant to foster compassion, breed empathy, and break down barriers — took a wrong turn. Animals were physically and emotionally abused to perform and act as props for travelers. Orphaned children even became commoditized as tourist attractions. And in the interest of short-term gains, we selfishly consumed and built over nearly every piece of vacant land, forcing our planet into a climate emergency.
This isn’t to discredit the many wonders of our industry in the past few decades — but tourism in recent years was both brilliant and broken. And while the golden age of travel feels long gone, COVID-19 should mark the start of a golden opportunity to change its course.
In the photo: In the aftermath of COVID-19, tourism needs to become more sustainable. Photo credit: Unsplash.
Simply put, we shouldn’t be aspiring for things to go back to normal. We should be aspiring to wholly redefine what normal means. In life it is so rare that we are given a second chance, and it’s important we don’t treat this like a fork in the road but rather a chance to forge a new path altogether. One where the rules can be rewritten to benefit the most vulnerable people, to protect the natural world and all the animals and humans who inhabit it, and to heal our planet from the damage we’ve caused.
While we are firmly planted in an indefinite period of stagnation, we must use this time as a force for good. Together, we must exercise a level of transparency and vulnerability with one another so that we can rebuild this industry the way it should’ve been built all along.
There are four key areas we’ve identified as mission critical to rebounding more responsibly. At Intrepid, these areas are rooted in both action and intention, but all of them require the power of the collective: travelers, airlines, hotels, operators and beyond.
So, what does rebuilding tourism responsibly and sustainably look like? At Intrepid, these are our four focus areas.
Advocating for net-zero emissions by 2030.
In 2019 we emitted 32,152 tonnes of carbon from our trips and 4,392 tonnes from our 44 offices worldwide. In 2020, we became climate positive. Reaching net-zero emissions requires detailed measurement of all carbon your business produces. Built off our learnings, we will soon be open sourcing a 10-step guide for other travel companies to use to reduce their carbon. For travellers, I would encourage you to consider personal offsets through options like the Intrepid Forest if and when you are able.
Ending exploitative wildlife tourism.
Up to 550,000 wild animals around the world are in captivity at tourist entertainment venues. When we rebuild tourism, we must set out with a clear goal that no animals should return to their cages. Over the next several months we will continue our work with World Animal Protection (WAP) to further advocate for sustainable wildlife tourism. We are also working to open-source our Animal Welfare Policy, so every travel business can rebound with a framework around interacting with wildlife in an ethical way.
Empowering communities and our value chain.
A supply chain does not exist to service you. In the post-COVID-19 world we need to redefine this relationship as our value chain, with a greater focus on creating shared value with suppliers. This virus has shown the number of people who rely on tourism, and unfortunately the most vulnerable people are being impacted most. The Intrepid Foundation is focused on community support as a core pillar of the rebuild. When travel rebounds, it is critical that we make a conscious effort to spend our tourism dollars with local people as a priority.
Establishing stronger governance and compliance.
External certifications that hold businesses accountable ensure a company operates with responsible and honest intentions. From 1% For The Planet to The Rainforest Alliance or becoming, as we have, a Certified B Corporation, these organizations require companies to use their business as a force for good. Travelers, please be mindful of these certifications in your purchasing decisions, and support sustainable tourism.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the future of the travel industry is tied to the collective. And while this virus may have brought our industry to a halt, we would be remiss not to let it be for something good. COVID-19 has opened the door for a fresh start that will provide us the opportunity to transform an industry with flaws into one that can build and support a world to be cherished by generations, forever.
We have a rare opportunity to reassess the impacts and opportunities the travel industry has on the world. And when I’m asked if I believe travel will rebound from this catastrophe, I wholeheartedly believe it will — but in order to do so, we must choose to rebuild it more responsibly.
Together, we can and will choose a new path.