It feels like a lifetime ago that locals in tourist-saturated areas complained of cramped infrastructure and unwelcome intrusion into their local culture.
And when travel resumes, hopefully later this year after vaccinations weave their protective shield, a new and more sustainable travel industry must await.
Increasingly, travellers are seeking out experiences that are not only unique but which are sustainable. Visitors understand that they can’t continuously pilfer the precious gems of a community, but instead can enjoy their gleam and leave them back, polished, for the next visitor – back for those who live there to also enjoy.
Eco-travel is no longer a dirty word. It is intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial mass tourism. And it comes in many forms – to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation or to empower local communities as you reap the escapist glow of wanderlust.
Arundhati Roy wrote in the Financial Times recently that “historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world.”
Never has it been more important to reimagine a new world when it comes to tourism. Eleni Andreadis is the Director of Sustainability at the Sani Resort in Greece which was named as the World’s Leading Luxury Green Resort at the World Travel Awards 2020.
“It pushes companies like ours to always do better”
It’s leading the way when it comes to sustainable travel at the higher-end of the market. The resort’s electricity usage comes from entirely renewable sources and that it has already achieved almost a 50% reduction in water use per guest since 2016.
Andreadis explains that committing to environmental responsibility isn’t just paying lip service.
“Sustainability is an increasingly vital part of travel, and people want to get more involved. We are seeing that from forums like trip advisor that our visitors are also more knowledgeable and savy. Gone are the days when you could just say something general about what you are doing when it comes to protecting or giving back to the local environment and we welcome that, it pushes companies to do much better.
We have environmental education for our guests even in our kid’s clubs, for example about the biodiversity of the area, the wetlands, the birds. We showcase products from our local communities – the olive producer, cheesemakers, beekeepers. We are seeing increased participation in our eco-guided lists.
Andreadis says that the change has come gradually and from different directions.
“The culture at Sani Resort has always been to be a positive force. 80% of our staff is local, we have around 60% of our produce locally sourced. I think that nowadays people, guests who chooses a certain company dont’ just expect green operations, they expect you to be a force for good within your community. It is something that isn’t’ just a nice nod, it is expected. So I think the culture of our company has always been us wanting to give back but it is also that there is an increased interest from guests about what we are doing.”
Many now believe that the effects of the pandemic have sparked further interest in the issue. In fact, new research shows that 58% of people now more interested in making more sustainable choices when it comes to travel.
Andreadis says the trend was always there but people are taking it more seriously. “More of us have had the time to reflect and understand that we can’t be healthy on an unhealthy planet. We need to be making better choices and I hope the pandemic will make that a faster change and our guests even more demanding.
That sense of urgency is there for us too. It is very clear that we have limited time to act on issues like plastic pollution, or climate change. And in keeping with our commitment as leaders on environmental issues in Greece and the Med, we plan to escalate our efforts even further.”
The suspension of travel due to the pandemic has also been an economic tragedy that has impacted the local communities so many of us are so keen to assist. The sooner we can resume our exploration of the world around us the better for so many different reasons.
But when we do finally re-emerge from our homes out into the travel sphere, let’s hope it will be with a bright and clear road map for its green future in hand.
(Source: IMAGE.IE/Amanda Cassidy)