Sustainable Travel

Leia Morales on 17 July 2021
There are lots of ways that the last 16 months has changed the way that we travel. For a start, many of us simply haven’t travelled. In 2019 80.9 million passengers travelled through Heathrow airport. In 2020 this decreased by 72.9% to just 22.1 million passengers. This reduced CO2 emissions from aviation by 60% according to the Global Carbon Project. It is sometimes difficult to see the positives to come from Covid-19 but changing our travel habits in the future can be one of those positives.

As we return to overseas travel, sustainable travel is becoming more of a consideration. A poll by Travel Counsellors revealed that 73% of customers consider sustainable travel when choosing a holiday and 6% consider it the main factor.

According to The Travel Foundation, “the aim of sustainable tourism is to increase the benefits and to reduce the negative impacts caused by tourism for destinations. This can be achieved by: • Protecting natural environments, wildlife and natural resources when developing and managing tourism activities • Providing authentic tourist experiences that celebrate and conserve heritage and culture • Creating socio-economic benefits for communities through employment and income earning opportunities”

In 2007 I visited Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda. This was my first experience of ways in which tourism activities can positively contribute to the protection of endangered species. The cost of your gorilla trekking permit ensures they can be constantly monitored by park rangers and protected from poachers. 10% of revenue from the permits is channelled towards local communities, to build schools, health centres, and roads. Money also goes into a compensation fund for local famers should any gorilla damage their crops, which helps to ensure peaceful co-existence. Six tracking permits are issued per troop per day, you are limited to 1 hour in their company, maintaining a 10 metre distance and you can’t visit if you have a cold due to them being so closely related to humans. The population of mountain gorillas has increased from 620 in 1989 to over 1000 thanks to conversation efforts.

There are lots of ways that you can participate in authentic tourist experiences to celebrate and conserve the heritage and culture of the country you are visiting. But what is an authentic experience? Let’s take Japan; over the 6 months I spent there I had many authentic experiences. Authentic doesn’t just mean traditional or ancient. Authentic experiences that I had ranged from sitting with locals in an izakaya (Japanese gastro-pub) to trying Japanese items on the McDonalds menu! I saw multiple temples and shrines but just as many sky scrapers, all of which shared the heritage and culture of the country. These authentic experiences can be had in any country, regardless of the type of holiday you are on. We stayed at an all inclusive in Barbados but still got a local bus to the capital Bridgetown and visiting Oistins along with locals on a Friday night.

94% of Travel Counsellors customers would like to learn more about how their holiday can help local people and the economy. Some local economies, in countries where tourism is their main industry, have been heavily affected by the pandemic. Places like the Maldives, where tourism directly contributes 21% to the country’s GDP, forecasted a decline for the tourism sector GDP ranging from -39.8% in the best case and -74.8% in the worst case (as of mid May 2020). Whilst a holiday to the Maldives seems like an indulgence for UK travellers during the pandemic, there are people whose employment and income earning opportunities are heavily reliant on tourism in the Maldives and many other places we would normally be travelling to. Getting tourists back to these countries in a safe way is important to reducing unemployment and the continued loss of income for individuals working in the hospitality sector in their counties.

Many tour operators now have sections on their websites dedicated to sustainable travel, for more information on how Travel Counsellors work with The Travel Foundation visit

If you would like to plan your sustainable travel, get in touch with me; Leia Morales – Travel Counsellor ( / 0115 832 0119). Throughout August I will be sharing details of what some of our suppliers are doing to contribute towards sustainable travel on my social media channels, just search for @TravelLeia to find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.