Be A Changemaker - Our Sustainable Tourism Strategy
Updated November 2022. Next update due November 2023.
A Note From Jess
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 of those worldwide that are supported financially, culturally, and environmentally through their involvement in the tourism industry. After all, as UNTWO’s (World Tourism Organisation) secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism is a people’s sector. 1 in 10 people in the world is directly or indirectly employed by tourism.’’ Also, the tourism sector can contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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, preconceived ideas, and 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 what we are focusing on:
Water Use And Conservation
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.
Single Use Plastics
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 informal free training & development programme (link) and our goal to create a formal tourism training initiative & support centre for women in Mongolia that we are in the process of setting up and looking for funding for – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/chandmana-erdene-a-circular-approach-to-tourism/
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.
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/
We’re a 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. Using the framework of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we will continue strengthening these partnerships whilst making sure that they have a positive impact – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/measuring-our-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. Using the framework of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we will continue strengthening these partnerships whilst making sure that they have a positive impact – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/measuring-our-impact/
Impact Of Flying
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.
Being Child Safe
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 are a member of Travelife and we have started the process to work step by step towards complying with international sustainability standards including in the protection of children. Learn more in our Child Protection Policy – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/our-child-protection-policy/.
Measuring Our Carbon Footprint
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 – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/climate-action-plan/
We focus on creating experiences that do not exploit or harm animals, whether they are wild or domesticated animals. Our Animal Welfare focus is about (our company, our team members and our guests) being aware of our impact on Mongolia’s wildlife and domestic livestock – including the riding and pack animals used during our treks. It is also making sure that our team and guests are observing wildlife responsibly on our wildlife trips.
Measuring Our Food Waste
On a global scale, an estimated 17 percent of total global food production – approximately 931 million tons of food — ends up being wasted in retail and by consumers. Looking at how we plan and prepare meals on our tour experiences, there are actions we can take to help prevent food waste. We’re a small company limited by our financial resources so we will start small and once we have identified the main sources of food waste in our business, we will consider the following potential actions to target them. With everything we do we start starting small allows us to tackle one or two actions successfully and leads to lasting change. Once new changes have been fully embraced, we will start the process again to see what can be targeted next – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/measuring-our-food-waste/