In recent years, the distinct feeling of remorse has become our regular travel companion. It’s obvious as we are becoming accustomed to the rising guilt while counting the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions during every trip we take. As a result of eco-consciousness, sustainable travel has already moved beyond theoretical concepts. And some experimental projects began developing at the end of the last century.
So what are the novelties in this field that every traveller can enjoy in the year 2020? And what can one do for local communities, areas of a slender environment and global society to benefit?
The emerging trend of traveling outside the high season
Travel during the offseason used to be an inclination of the travellers who couldn’t – or didn’t want to – afford other options. But now off-season travel is also an obvious choice for the environmentally-conscious folks. And it’s not just because they feel better not visiting waste-polluted beaches that used to be especially picturesque.
Of course, splitting and distributing the tourist flow could also be a solution. Especially for some of the most popular sites that face huge overcrowding problems. But one does not need to wait for an official closure of the next tourist-beloved spot. You can rather find some inner motivation to preserve such a place by simply not visiting it along with the crowd and aiming to travel during the low season.
Large-scale involvement in rewilding
Rewilding has been around for almost half a century. But today not only governments and grassroot networks are aiming for restoring and protecting natural processes. Tourism businesses all around the world seem to finally jump on the bandwagon.
There are at least a few initiatives that just can’t be left unnoticed this year. The most noteworthy is the decade-long project of ‘Rewilding Europe’. Almost ten years ago it set the goal to bring back the wildlife into a million hectares across Europe. And first tangible results are about to be seen in 2020.
Not only seen but also appreciated as abandoned Carpathian farmlands become a wildlife sanctuary. As well as the areas in the western Iberian Peninsula, Velebit and Danube delta region. Here local tourism businesses already took part in rewilding initiatives. This year they expect an increased flow of nature lovers and ecotourists. As well as others eager to see how the reintroduction of keystone species has changed these areas.
Bio positive tourism
Young people volunteering to take part in the environmental programs and scientists travelling to participate in rewilding activities usually also fall into tourism statistics. On the one hand, local tourism businesses tend to be involved in the economics of bio positive tourism by providing them services such as accommodation.
On the other hand, though, such businesses are assigning a part of their income for protecting the ecosystems more frequently. For example, green travel company Responsible Travel states that ‘fascinating and hopeful new development, more tourism businesses are using incomes to protect land and habitats for some of the world’s most endangered species’.
The year 2020 is also an important milestone in the Biodiversity Strategy of the European Union, set more than two decades ago. Back then, the network of conservation areas Natura 2000 – as we know it today – was established. When setting its frameworks, it was stated that strategy is aiming to ‘halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020’ and to restore them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss. So we are definitely about to see a lot of close attention to the protected areas across Europe – which have already become tourist hotspots – this year.
The course of ecotourism resurrection
In fact, the ecotourism, as we knew it for decades, was never gone – nor was it ever forgotten. But these days any alternative to large-scale mass tourism is getting more attention than ever. So it seems that ‘ecotouristic’ practices once applied and exercised only by nature lovers and curious members of the scientific community are about to join the global trends.
It’s easier than ever to take part in a preservation program of some protected nature or cultural site you are visiting. You can even do so before or after your trip. Otherwise, it is possible without visiting the site at all – in such a way you can literally turn over the effect of an impact your visit would have on the local environment. Is it still about travelling? Well, that’s for you to decide.
It is also a time when ecotourists become more aware of the social – along with the ecological – responsibility while travelling both to popular destinations as well as emerging hot-spots or remote and still undiscovered corners. Empowering local communities to benefit from responsible tourism became one of the main goals for such touristic practices more than a decade ago. So now, as such benefits become obvious in the long run, the right trend is about to emerge on a global scale.
One of the most illustrative examples, how a modern traveller is becoming more conscious – a switch from the grand resorts and chain hotels to local B&B’s. This is how travellers become aware not just of their impact on the natural environment, but also about the jolt they are making on local communities. Socially responsible travel trends become widely acknowledged not only by local governments. As this course becomes The Big Thing, travellers themselves are also more aware than ever. So traveling in a way that benefits not only travellers’ curiosity but also the local community they are visiting, these days is not just another option, but almost a necessity.
Flygskam – or just a ‘fly-shaming’ we all already heard about
The new buzzword originated from Swedish and dominated the travel-related discourse for the whole year. With Swedish airports already reporting shrinking numbers of air travellers, local train carriers praise Flygskam for the double-digit-percentage increase in the total amount of all passengers carried.
Facebook group, called Tågsemester (another Swedish word, meaning ‘train holiday’), welcomes all the travellers who are eager to post their selfies or the pictures from their latest trip that was so low on carbon emissions, that there was no guilt while passing another hundred of kilometers. It’s a trend that shows the power of social media. Which again seems able to unite thousands – and later even millions – of citizens in their pursuit of the common goal. This time – the ecological one.
So how can an ordinary traveller join this movement – especially if such a traveller is not Sweden-based? The answer is quite simple as one can switch from short plane travel to a railroad journey virtually anywhere in the world. And as for those who are not able to do so during their next journey – for example, if they are about to take a transcontinental flight above the ocean – there is usually an option to be more eco-friendly just by booking a flight with lower CO2 emission per passenger.
Choosing low-cost carriers and all-economy cabins are obviously the best choice in such a situation. It is also worth noting that more and more airlines are offering travellers an opportunity to pay a voluntary carbon footprint offset fee while booking tickets for their next flight. It is calculated in such a way that the amount of positive environmental impact which will be funded by the money you’ll pay as a fee would be adequate to the proportion of a negative impact your air travel would have on our planet. The Scandinavian air carrier SAS is even offering travellers an opportunity to buy some biofuel for their next flight. That way they can contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 percent – compared to fossil-based jet fuels.
Just another dilemma that can occur then is related to the question of whether you should label yourself as a more environmentally conscious flyer while posting the moments of your travel on social media or join another – yet unfamous – movement, called Att smygflyga (“flying in secret”).
And there is another unpleasant thing when it comes to flying. Even if you decide to fly as green as you can, your flight will not necessarily go as planned. Another common issue with plane travel is the possibility of flight disruption. And yes, flight disruptions tend to happen more often than a common traveller may think.
But if you’ll ever face such disruption – namely, flight delay, cancellation or overbooking, do not worry! There is also some good news: Under Regulation (EC) 261/2004 passengers of such flights can be entitled to compensation from the airline. And getting it is simpler than you may think – just claim your flight compensation via Skycop! Up to €600 may be yours. Want to know how much your case could be worth? Try out our flight compensation calculator!