A Summer Vacation Dilemma: Sustainable Travel Is a Priority Until It Costs Money

Summer is here and, with it, a new wave of eased restrictions around the world—the only exception on both counts is Australia. Since you, too, are probably preparing for a summer vacation, no matter how short or close to home, here’s something to keep in mind: make sure you make it as sustainable as possible.
Sustainable travel doesn't have to cost more, but it does require some extra planning 1 photo
Photo: Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
The 2020 international health crisis has brought about many related bad, terrible developments, from businesses shuttering permanently to mass lay-offs and massive financial losses. The travel industry was one of the hardest hit, with the aviation segment marking 2020 as the worst year ever in history, bar none. The aviation industry will need at least five years to get to where it was before the health crisis, and that’s under an optimistic scenario.

Things are looking up, though. The spring of 2021 brought several eased restrictions, including international travels, which probably means you’re thinking about heading somewhere for a summer vacation. You can do this two ways: either the same way you’ve been doing it under lockdown (meaning, traveling by car, bike, or moto to a location close by) or by plane.

A recent CNBC report notes that worldwide travelers have become more sensitized to the issue of sustainability when traveling, mostly due to their inability to do so anymore. Put it differently, barred from traveling great distances, travelers have finally started to pay more attention to the environment near them and explore it accordingly.

That sounds like great news. Sustainable travel is just one way to offset some of the effects of climate change, so yay for us, right? Not really, no. The same report cites a second study on travel behavior, which reveals that, unsurprisingly, the same tourists who are game for sustainable travel are not so game when it costs them extra money. An extra charge for carbon offsetting on the price of their plane ticket, along with higher costs for sustainable lodging and public transport are instant deal-breakers for the same tourists who declare sustainable travel a priority.

It seems like we’re stuck in place, at least based on the findings of these two small studies: we want sustainable travel but only as long as it doesn’t inconvenience us in any way, either financially or otherwise. Not traveling at all on sustainability considerations is not a possibility either, so what is there that we could do to make a difference?

The answer is simple. Sure enough, we need solutions, and we need them to be quick and with a worldwide application, but that doesn’t exclude starting small. While airlines are still in the planning stage for achieving net zero on carbon emissions sometime down the line, each traveler can make a change on their own.

As James Thornton, CEO of Intrepid Group, a travel company specializing in sustainable tourism, tells the same media outlet, the smallest change can make a difference, even if it’s not instantly quantifiable or observable in the grand scheme of things. Why wait for a big change when we can pave the way for it by doing our bit?

“Traveling responsibly is not about making sacrifices or staying home,” he says. “It’s about planning trips carefully so that you’re able to enjoy the experience you seek, while leaving a positive footprint in the destination you’re visiting.”

If you think about it, this isn’t breaking news: it’s common sense. So spare just one more thought during your vacation planning stage. Travel by train or other, more eco-friendly means of transport whenever possible instead of flying, use local resources and use them responsibly, whether for public transport or accommodations.

That said, have a fun 2021 summer, be responsible, and never stop exploring!
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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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