Earth Day 2021: What does an ethical holiday look like now?

·3-min read
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Coronavirus has given us a chance to reflect and focus our minds on how the choices we make impact the world around us. An August 2020 report from management consultancy Accenture showed that consumers have “dramatically evolved”, and that 60 per cent of people are making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases since the start of the pandemic.

With travel back on the horizon and many of us desperate to get away, I’m hopeful that the choices we make when planning our holiday will look very different than they did before. In the same way as we want to know the provenance of our food or fashion, we need to be sure our holiday does not come at the expense of the planet.

So what does an ethical holiday look like? For starters, flying less. We know that before the pandemic the tourism industry was responsible for roughly 8 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, much of which was caused by flying.

While getting on a plane might be inevitable to explore the world sometimes, there is a great deal of room to be more intentional and responsible about it. You can choose to spend more time in a destination when going long-haul to extend the value of your flights, and you can also look for alternative transport options where possible.

There are already some efforts being made in this regard. France is considering banning domestic flights where rail options are available, while new sleeper trains could make train travel in Europe easier than ever.

At Intrepid Travel, we’ve made a commitment to review our top 50 trips and remove flights of 90 minutes or less by 2022 wherever there is a feasible alternate route available, such as replacing the usual flight between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh on a new trip in Cambodia with a boat cruise up the Tonle Sap River.

We’re also seeing a shift to travelling slower. In the past year, Intrepid has introduced over 40 low-carbon alternative tours, including new closer-to-home adventures and walking and cycling trips in the UK.

Responsible travel is not just about having a light footprint, but benefitting the people and places you visit. Ethical travel takes these principles on the road by staying in locally owned accommodation, using local transport and keeping tourism dollars in the hands of small business owners and communities.

We became travel’s largest B Corporation in 2018 – a certification for ethical companies who care about their impact on people and the planet – in part so that customers could easily tell that we benefit the communities and destinations we visit. There are now five UK travel companies who are B Corp, with many more working towards certification.

The pandemic has given us the opportunity to reconsider how we travel. This Earth Day, we can commit to re-entering the world more responsibly. There is no vaccine for climate change. It’s up to all of us to change the way we explore.

Zina Bencheikh is managing director EMEA of Intrepid Travel

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