The future of yoga travel
After two years of Covid, what can we expect from yoga travel in the years ahead? Here, Mark Bibby Jackson explains why the future of travel should be clean and green
Few, if any, sectors have suffered as much from the pandemic as travel and tourism. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in a report released in June estimated that the sector “suffered losses of almost $4.5 trillion,” in 2020.
In 2019, travel and tourism accounted for 10.4% of global GDP; in 2020 this was only 5.5%, and 62 million people lost their jobs.
These are staggering figures, especially for countries heavily dependent upon tourism…and especially international tourism.
Building back better
Given this it would be all too easy for the sector to demand a growth at all costs policy to redress the losses of the past 18 months.
However, this is not the case.
The WTTC report states: “There has been growing awareness around climate, environmental and social issues…It is increasingly clear that we should respond with the same urgency and vigour to the climate crisis as we are to Covid-19, not only on ethical grounds, but also because the travellers of tomorrow will demand it.”
Various reports have indicated that the pandemic has changed the way that people view travel. For instance, research carried out by Booking.com in March this year indicated that 73% of Americans feel that sustainable travel is vital. Other reports have indicated a similar attitude on this side of the Atlantic.
The message is clear. Any recovery plan should account for the climate crisis, which, if anything, will have greater consequences upon both humankind and the planet than Covid.
How to put good words into action
Today’s travellers want their travel to have a lesser environmental impact than previous generations. Avoiding single-use plastics, opting for towels and bed linen not to be cleaned every day, and turning off the air conditioning are measures that many implement.
According to Booking.com’s survey 71% of respondents would use environmentally friendly travel options while in their destination. Quite simply, travellers want to do the right thing.
Changing the deckchairs on the Titanic
However, implementing green practices on your holiday is a bit like “changing the deckchairs on the Titanic,” according to Professor Geoffrey Lipman, who is promoting the concept of climate friendly travel through the SUNx Malta programme (thesunprogram.com). The underlying principle of climate friendly travel is that it should be both green and clean.
Climate change is the huge iceberg we are sailing into. Unless we do something about it then the worthy measures you implement on your travels become pretty irrelevant.
What benefit is there to small island resorts if they implement green, sustainable measures, if in 10 to 20 years’ time they are under water due to rising sea levels.
Transport, predominantly flights, is responsible for roughly half of the global tourism industry’s carbon footprint. Aviation contributed 915 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2019 (estimated to be some 3% of global CO2 emissions). Any meaningful attempt to reduce this needs to take into account the carbon impact of how we travel to destinations, as well as what we do once there.
Taking the train and flight shame
One approach is to take alternative transport, a train, coach or even cycling.
Taking the train is generally cleaner than flying. This makes sense within the UK or around Europe, but doesn’t get you very far if you are planning a break in the Maldives, or are visiting relatives in New Zealand.
Many small island states, such as the Maldives, Seychelles and those in the Caribbean, are heavily dependent upon tourism revenue, so simply taking them off your holiday bucket list, might solve one problem, but creates another.
Clearly, some destinations need international flights. The question is how to reduce their environmental impact.
Making flights cleaner
This is something that the industry has been working on for a number of years, with a reduction in CO2 emissions per kilometre of just over 50% since 1990. Current airplanes are much cleaner than those of a few decades ago – one reason why upgrading of fleets is so important. But they still are not clean. ]Last year Airbus announced plans for the first hydrogen plane. However, these will not take off until 2035 at the earliest, and even then, only on flights up to 2,000 miles. There has also been a lot of research into sustainable aviation fuels which can be made from industrial waste, however these are more expensive than conventional aviation fuels.
Currently, despite this progress, there is no easy technological fix to the problem.
Offsetting your carbon footprint
While decisions such as the imposition of carbon taxes on aviation fuel in order to create a level playing field are ones that have to be made at governmental and intergovernmental levels, there is something that we can all do when booking our next flight – offset.
There is much debate about the relative value of offsetting the carbon footprint of your flight, or holiday. Some accuse it of being a greenwash. But, if the reality is that reducing the ‘real’ carbon emissions of our travel is some way off, the next best thing is to reduce the ‘net’ carbon emissions through offsetting.
Of course, there are offsets and offsets.
Under some schemes you might find yourself paying for a tree that someone else has paid for before you. It is far better for your offsets to contribute to a rewilding project that supports the biodiversity of an area rather than to planting trees that might then be cut down after a number of years as part of a forestry project.
If all this sounds too confusing, then the good thing is there is a Gold Standard (goldstandard.org) for carbon offsets. Alternatively, you could also choose to offset your travel with Trees4Travel (trees4travel.com), which carefully selects which organisations it works with, and charges you £3 per tree as your carbon offset contribution. For instance, if you were to take the train from London to Paris and spend three nights there, you can offset your travel for the cost of one tree, or £3.
Similarly Tomorrow’s Air (tomorrowsair.com) has partnered with leading carbon capture company Climeworks (climeworks.com), which is also part of the consortium behind the hydrogen-based aviation fuel plan mentioned above, to allow individuals to make a monthly subscription from as low as $10 to help fund carbon capture.
Change the way you enjoy travelling
Fundamentally, for me climate friendly travel is an attitudinal shift about the way we view our travel. As a travel writer I am someone who sees the benefits of travel as well as its environmental and climate consequences.
I suggest that when you are planning your next trip, whether domestically or internationally, you consider this. I am a massive believer in slow travel. Not only does this minimise your carbon footprint by reducing the number of flights you take, it also maximises the positive contribution you can make to your host community.
By spending more time to get to know your hosts – their culture, food and tradition – you will find your own travel experience much more rewarding. After all, this is why we go on holiday in the first place.
By making your travel both cleaner and greener not only will you be doing your bit to support local communities and redress climate change, you will also be enriching your travel experience.
Mark Bibby Jackson is passionate about travel and sharing the joys of visiting new places and people. He is founder and group editor of websites Travel Begins at 40 (TravelBeginsAt40.com) and London Begins at 40 (LondonBeginsat40.com), as well as the award winning author of three thrillers set in Cambodia. He is the former editor of AsiaLIFE Cambodia, ASEAN Forum and Horizon Thailand magazines. Find out more at: markbibbyjackson.co.uk