Be A Changemaker - Our Sustainable Tourism Strategy
A note from Jess
Coronavirus and its impact on travel and tourism is something big, something wide-sweeping and something unknown.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic the travel and tourism industry was very much in the media but for mainly the wrong reasons. Tourism’s continuous growth brought immense challenges and undermined its future success as the tourism model depended on more visitors each year to survive leading to over-tourism in both domestic and international travel. Also, we are all conscious of the role flying plays in producing the carbon emissions that drive climate change.
Yet, doing away with tourism undermines the livelihood for those worldwide that are supported financially, culturally and environmentally through their involvement in the tourism industry. After all, as UNTWOs’s (World Tourism Organisation) secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism is a people’s sector. 1 in 10 people in the world are directly or indirectly employed by tourism.’’ Also, I agree with the United Nations that the tourism sector can contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).
What I would like to see come out of the pandemic is a recalibration in the travel and tourism sector although I believe the answer is not as simple as paying for carbon emissions or stopping flying altogether. I believe we have to think long-term.
I want to see more focus on green technologies in commercial airlines. And, as highlighted by the company Responsible Travel, I would like to see an increase in the Air Passenger Duty (APD) particularly for domestic flights and travel in any class other than basic economy. But, decarbonising travel is about more than tackling aviation. And certainly has to be more than just paying a carbon emissions tax – offsetting your emission by paying someone else to plant trees in places like Africa does not cut it. We also need to consider how we behave once on the ground in our chosen destination. Once we’ve made the decision to take a flight we should make the journey count.
I hope that we become more conscious or aware travellers – whether that is on a one-week sun bed holiday in Spain or a three-week trek through the Amazon or even a cruise or a ski holiday. We need to stop the one-upping epidemic and not be so critical of the type or style of the experience but more focused on the impact it has on the local community, culture and environment. It is possible to have a responsible sun-bed holiday where you stay at a small hotel complex that recycles its grey water, uses solar energy, employs people from the local community, with a kitchen that produces meals from produce grown in their own garden.
I want to see the bucket list being ditched. I want to see travel and tourism being used to break down the typical stereotypes, the preconceived ideas and the popular misconceptions of the countries and cultures we visit. In an ideal world, I would want to remove highlights, must-see sights and peak season. I want to remove exploitative tourism and staged or contrived experiences. I want to see instead a travel and tourism industry with a greater visitor dispersal over an extended period of time – thereby helping to create ‘greater inclusivity among underserved residents in both urban and non-urban environments.’ (Greg Oates from SkiftX Brand Strategy Group).
I continue to believe that tourism can be a powerful force for good – that the travel and tourism industry will take responsibility to ensure that tourism focuses on its environmental impact as well as sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. Now is the time for change. And I invite you to be a change-maker and join us in supporting our sustainable tourism strategy. This is a long-term project for us but here in a snapshot are some of our long term focus for 2020 and beyond.
Because of Mongolia’s geographical location and climate, it faces a strain on its freshwater supply which the impact of tourism will only exacerbate. We’re creating a ‘strategy within a strategy’ on how we can limit our own impact on Mongolia’s future freshwater shortage which looks at the accommodation we use, the way our team uses water as part of each trip and also how we provide drinking water to our guests.
Plastic bottles and plastic bags are a scourge on Mongolia’s landscapes as they are elsewhere in the world. We have been offering our fabric tote bags created by the Mongolian Quilting Centre NGO as a welcome gift since 2011 and working with Water-To-Go since 2018 – a perfect reusable alternative and sustainable solution to plastic pollution (link). Our next focus is how to reduce our general use of plastic and as part of this, we have created our Mini Plastic Free Mongolia Challenge.
As a social travel enterprise, we look at the bigger picture rather than just focusing on achieving maximum profit. Our long-term support of Mongolian women remains ongoing with our free training & development programme (link). To make sure our impact remains a positive one, Jess has signed up to a women’s leadership course at Oxford University.
Everybody needs the freedom of choice to travel and to enjoy experiencing a different culture and country. We are currently working on our accessibility guide (link) and focusing on starting real conversations with potential guests that face accessibility issues. In 2020 we’re welcoming our first wheelchair user.
As part of our continuing focus on local education, we arrange our annual EL rubbish community clean up working with the rangers and community of Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park. In 2019, we noticed an increase in the number of wet wipes, sanitary items and hygiene products. Most tourism companies in Mongolia seem to be ignoring the issue. We’re not … https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/annual-community-national-park-clean-up/
Meet Sailaukhan – a Kazakh eagle hunter and head of one of the families we have formed long-term local community partnerships with. We’re a registered social travel enterprise and look to make sure we work responsibly within tourism and that our work benefits the local people and communities of Mongolia as much as it benefits our guests and us as a business. We focus on creating local community partnerships that offer long-term support to local people, families and Mongolian projects – encouraging their own sense of enterprise. We also look at ways we can continue to work with each family even when their personal circumstances change. We want to continue strengthening these partnerships whilst making sure that they have a positive impact.
The local projects that we actively support, such as Nogoon Nuur in Ulaanbaatar’s ger districts (link) may come across as a way of trying to up our responsible travel credentials but, between them, these often grassroots level projects, provide greater opportunities and benefits for local communities within Mongolia and that’s worth supporting. We want to continue strengthening these partnerships whilst making sure that they have a positive impact.
We are conscious of the role flying plays in producing the carbon emissions that are part of the climate emergency and the situation is only getting worse. But I believe the answer is not as simple as paying for carbon emissions or stopping flying altogether. Jess is currently taking part in the Adventure Travel Trade Association Climate Action Leadership Studio – focusing on ways we can try to limit our impact and improve our operations.
Children are not tourist attractions and we have a responsibility towards children; especially in keeping them safe. This includes not arranging school or orphanage visits apart from for those who are qualified educators. We need to develop practical guidelines and are looking to work with the Child Safe Movement to do this.
It is well documented that the tourism industry is a major contributor to global carbon emissions which are a major part of the climate emergency. As a tourism business – especially one working in Mongolia, a country where a majority of our guests have no option but to fly to – we have a moral responsibility to make sure the way we work is as sustainable as possible. Our focus has to be about reducing and managing our carbon footprint.