Will Travel Ever Become “Green”?
I often go for hikes with a friend who specialises in destination marketing. The tourism organisations she works with happen to be in some of the most scenic, natural locations such as Canada, New Zealand, the UK etc. However, promoting tourism inevitably impacts the environment of these places. She wonders if it is even possible to have a green travel & tourism sector?
I try to assure her that it is not so much of an oxymoron as it seems to be, and yet, I understand her point. How can we, on one hand promote environmental conscious behaviour among tourists who visit, and on the other, promote snowmobile tours? How can we have more public chargers for electric vehicles in town, when people must fly long haul flights and burn gallons of aviation fuel to get to our town every year?
Green travel or no travel, what would you do?
Let’s face the reality. Travel, tourism, automobile and aviation sectors are too far away from being green. However, it is also inevitable that they shift towards a greener version of themselves. As an economist, I can’t deny that activities harmful to the planet are inexorably woven into the very nature of these industries. The structural changes the planet demands are possible but will be slow to take place. Moreover these industries have become such a common part of our lives, that people boycotting air travel and overhauling their lifestyles to exclude traveling has become unimaginable.
In late 2021, I attended a Climate Emergency Action lecture by Dr. Mark Jaccard, as part of the Whistler Institute’s Global Perspectives Series. Jaccard is a distinguished professor of environmental economics and a vocal advocate of “climate-sincere” public policy but also citizen action for the environment. He shared that there is much we can do at the individual level to prevent damage to our ecological systems. There is also a great deal that needs to be done at the level of local and national policy. And yet, in my opinion, such actions and policies must take into account what is economically viable (not necessarily profitable, but minimum viable) for the industries we are hoping to transform.