The pandemic has sent us a wake-up call to improve the links between the environment, economy, and human wellbeing. It’s essential that we change the way we travel and tour the world. Tourists and the tourism industry can come back post-Covid to create greener alternatives and use lower-carbon methods. All this will help protect nature as well as the communities we visit. And this can be done in such a way that still affords economic benefits to local communities. 

Sustainable tourism sets a framework for engaging travelers in supporting goals that include protecting the environment, addressing climate change, minimizing plastic consumption, and expanding economic development. Sustainable tourism ensures that development is a positive experience for local people, tourism companies, and tourists themselves.

Even before Covid had upended travel, people’s interest in sustainability was starting to increase. And, now, Covid has given us a chance to do things differently.

Brands Leading The Way Towards Sustainability 

1. Kawasaki King Skyfront Tokyu Rei Hotel, Japan

This hotel in Kanagawa, Japan is the first of its kind, a ‘hydrogen hotel’ that generates all of its energy from waste food and even plastic. Part of a program by the country’s Ministry of Environment, the hotel was developed to help combat pollution through the efficient use of hydrogen energy. The most unique feature of the hotel is a clean energy solution: 30 percent of the electricity in the hotel is powered by hydrogen energy. What’s more, it does not emit CO2 while generating power.

2. Fair Voyage, Switzerland

Fair Voyage is an online travel agency based in Zurich, Switzerland. The agency specializes in creating socially and environmentally responsible trips to lower-income countries. As a social enterprise, Fair Voyage ensures your trip positively impacts local communities, helps restore and preserve natural and cultural heritage, and protects our climate.

Alexandra Pastollnigg is the founder of Fair Voyage and she believes that Covid has offered the industry ‘a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do things differently’.  She also believes that governments must first lead the way with sustainable development plans and investments. 

3. Ras Al Khaimah, UAE – The New ‘Nature Emirate’

Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, which was established by the government of RAK ruled by Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, has used the break in international travel to enhance the Emirate’s focus on sustainability. To boost sustainable tourism in Ras Al Khaimah and market it as ‘the nature emirate’, the socially and environmentally aware travelers are being targeted. The RAK government has recently made an announcement to invest £96m in sustainable tourism.

To boost eco tourism, RAK is launching 20 projects that include sustainable hotels.  Another example is the “A Cloud7 Camp” at Jebel Jais for adventure travelers seeking an exciting but luxurious glamping experience. This lodging features dozens of dwellings made from sustainable materials.

4. Kudadoo, Maldives

Kudadoo, a solar-powered private island in the Maldives, is the brainchild of  New-York-based architecture firm Yuji Yamazaki. The architect’s hope is that the island’s renewable energy generation system will be adopted more widely in the Maldives over the longer term. 

After arriving in Kudadoo by a private seaplane, guests are treated to pampering luxuries that include massages, culinary adventures, world-class wines, water sports, snorkelling and more.  

5. Mantis Collection, South Africa

Mantis Collection is a company that owns sustainably-focused throughout the world. A few years ago, the company partnered with Accor to establish the nonprofit Community Conservation Fund Africa (CCFA) to address Africa’s many social and ecological challenges. During the pandemic, the nonprofit has provided food and other essentials to communities that have not been able to get the tourist income because of Covid.

Paul Gardiner of  Mantis Collection says that the aim is to help these communities through this challenging time and to protect wildlife from those who may turn to poaching to survive. Other CCFA projects include an “Adopt a Beehive” initiative whereby hives are donated to communities and residents are trained to be beekeepers. 

6. ‘France-Relance’ Plan, France

To cope up with Covid-19 impacts, the French government launched the “FRANCE RELANCE” plan, a 100-billion euros plan to protect, support, and revitalize the economy. The key priorities of this plan are improving transport and energy, sustainable retrofitting of buildings, building circular economy approaches to avoid pollution, protecting biodiversity and food systems as well as improving water and sanitation.

Need To Rethink For The Travel Industry 

Covid-19 has been a global shock moment that has led us to rethinking in the tourism industry, which is so accustomed to success. With the “travel less stay longer” mantra, we can set goals for climate neutrality and environmental protection; and build long-term strategies for tourism.  

We need to rethink tourism for the future. Governments together with the private sector need to reinforce coordination mechanisms both at the local and international levels. These recovery plans should also encourage digital, low carbon and structural transition needed to build resilient and sustainable tourism economies.