Responsible tourism in the climate crisis

Posted in News on Thursday, January 16th, 2020


Responsible tourism providers of all kinds face real challenges in this climate crisis, and Village Ways is no different. We live in a time when travellers are questioning their travel choices, and even weighing up whether they should travel – especially by air – at all. As we strive to make our village tourism enterprises (guesthouses, village homestays, community-run campsites, houseboat) sustainable over the long term, the income stream from international guests is vital. But we accept that we have to make a case for ourselves at a time when everyone, quite rightly, is looking to reduce the environmental impacts of their lifestyle choices.


Since we started our projects over 10 years ago, we have built climate crisis resilience into the way we work. We have used local materials, and local labour, in the construction of new buildings, or refurbishment of existing buildings. We employed low-usage water systems in areas (like the Himalayas) increasingly vulnerable to water shortages), and use solar power for water heatings and lamps in communities that remain 'off grid'. We encourage crop diversification so that communities grow crops for guests, at a time when failure of traditional crops due to drought is an increasing issue. Importantly, we work at a local and regional level to help communities find solutions to problems that are already happening due to the climate crisis. In our marketing, we are increasingly looking to promote our trips to domestic guests, and already have a sizeable Indian guest community. We work with Indian media particularly those promoting responsible travel. We use, wherever possible, rail travel rather than cars or internal flights, for guests, and Indian trains are very much a part of the overall holiday experience!


But, can international air travel be in any sense responsible? Many analysts point out that governments and corporations should take major responsibility in this area, rather than the moral burden being carried by individuals. We would support taxation of air fuel, even though it would increase the cost of visiting our communities, and would like these revenues to go directly into carbon reducing measures such as tree planting etc. We also urge governments to speed up the development of low or zero-emission air travel, through increased investment in this sector. We are not particularly in favour of carbon offsetting, which too often is a simplistic green-washing exercise, though we appreciate that guests make these choices in good faith.


However you weight the arguments, we are in no doubt that we need to continue to welcome international guests to be fully sustainable. We would argue that, if you decide to take international flights, then make sure your trip brings benefits to the hosts. In this way, the trip can still be a force for good, improving livelihoods in communities with low incomes and few opportunities. In a world blighted in many places by overtourism, our communities need a few more visitors to be sustainable. In the end, it has to be the individual's choice to balance the impacts, but our central message is that responsible tourism is more important than ever before, and we thank all our guests for travelling as responsibly as possible.


Further reading:


Broad discussion of the major issues around air travel

National Geographic analysis of 2019 climate change report on Himalayan regions

The report itself

Article in the Independent pointing out that carbon emissions can also be reduced by choices taken on holiday, ansd the syle of holiday taken.



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