As the world recovers from COVID-19, travel will gradually return to being a hugely popular pastime, with billions of people taking vacations each year. This period of recovery is the perfect time to introduce some changes for good – changes that the industry desperately needs.
While tourism is so important to some parts of the world that it keeps entire economies afloat, it can be fickle, with income rising and falling with trends and many kinds of crises. It can also cause great harm to the environment. Destinations around the world have been victims of their own popularity, their culture ruined and their scenery buried under pollution and over-development.
The goal of the UNESCO Sustainable Tourism Pledge is to minimize the negative impacts that travel has on popular destinations. While we still want to encourage people to explore the globe and encounter cultures different to their own, we want them to do so responsibly and sustainably so that generations to come will still have the opportunity to do so. We need your help to make that happen.
Hotels can be either the greatest cause of tourism's environmental harm or they can be examples of outstanding green practises and forces for positive change in the community. All it takes is a few simple commitments.
About 300 million tonnes of plastic is created every year, using non-renewable resources. A staggering amount of it is used once and discarded, taking decades to degrade after minutes of use. As much as 8 million tonnes of it ends up in the sea where it damages delicate ecosystems, kills fish, enters the food chain and washes up on the beautiful beaches that tourists travel far to visit, including those in Thailand.
It isn't only the natural environment that can be harmed by irresponsible tourism. Where tourists are, business follows, and many a destination has lost its unique identity to westernization, with traditional local restaurants replaced by fast-food chains, traditional dress supplanted by jeans and T-shirts and quiet, sleepy towns shaken by bars and nightclubs. In many cases, the influx of tourist dollars increases prices for property, food and other basic essentials, pricing local families out of their own homes.
Both of these world-changing harmful impacts can be reduced by committing to some fairly small and simple policies. By pledging to these commitments, you can turn a hotel from a cause for concern in the community to a source of sustainability. Of course, one hotel alone cannot make a huge difference, but a little action from a lot of hotels can.