The end of global travel as we know it: an opportunity for sustainable tourism

The end of global travel as we know it: an opportunity for sustainable tourism

Saturday, March 14 2020, is “The Day the World Stopped Travelling”, in the words of Rifat Ali, head of travel analytics company Skift.

That’s a little dramatic, perhaps, but every day since has brought us closer to it being reality.

The COVID-19 crisis has the global travel industry – “the most consequential industry in the world”, says Ali – in uncharted territory. Nations are shutting their borders. Airlines face bankruptcy. Ports are refusing entry to cruise ships, threatening the very basis of the cruise business model.

Associated hospitality, arts and cultural industries are threatened. Major events are being cancelled. Tourist seasons in many tourist destinations are collapsing. Vulnerable workers on casual, seasonal or gig contracts are suffering. It seems an epic disaster.

But is it?

Considering human activities need to change if we are to avoid the worst effects of human-induced climate change, the coronavirus crisis might offer us an unexpected opportunity.

Ali, like many others, wants recovery, “even if it takes a while to get back up and return to pre-coronavirus traveller numbers”.

But rather than try to return to business as usual as soon as possible, COVID-19 challenges us to think about the type of consumption that underpins the unsustainable ways of the travel and tourism industries.

Tourism dependency

Air travel features prominently in discussions about reducing carbon emissions. Even if commercial aviation accounts “only” for about 2.4% of all emissions from fossil-fuel use, flying is still how many of us in the industrialised world blow out our carbon footprints.

But sustainability concerns in the travel and tourism sectors extend far beyond carbon emissions.

In many places tourism has grown beyond its sustainable bounds, to the detriment of local communities.

The overtourism of places like Venice, Barcelona and Reykjavik is one result. Cruise ships disgorge thousands of people for half-day visits that overwhelm the destination but leave little economic benefit.

Cheap airline fares encourage weekend breaks in Europe that have inundated old cities such as Prague and Dubrovnik. The need for growth becomes self-perpetuating as tourism dependency locks communities into the system.

In a 2010 paper I argued the problem was tourism underpinned by what sociologist Leslie Sklair called the “culture-ideology of consumerism” – by which consumption patterns that were once the preserve of the rich became endemic.

Tourism is embedded in that culture-ideology as an essential pillar to achieve endless economic growth. For instance, the Australian government prioritises tourism as a “supergrowth industry”, accounting for almost 10% of “exports” in 2017-18.

Out of crisis comes creativity

Many are desperate to ensure business continues as usual. “If people will not travel,” said Ariel Cohen of California-based business travel agency TripActions, “the economy will grind to a halt.”

COVID-19 is a radical wake-up call to this way of thinking. Even if Cohen is right, that economic reality now needs to change to accommodate the more pressing public health reality.

It is a big economic hit, but crisis invites creativity. Grounded business travellers are realising virtual business meetings work satisfactorily. Conferences are reorganising for virtual sessions. Arts and cultural events and institutions are turning to live streaming to connect with audiences.

In Italian cities under lockdown, residents have come out on their balconies to create music as a community.

Local cafes and food co-ops, including my local, are reaching out with support for the community’s marginalised and elderly to ensure they are not forgotten.

These responses challenge the atomised individualism that has gone hand in hand with the consumerism of travel and tourism. This public health crisis reminds us our well-being depends not on being consumers but on being part of a community.

Staying closer to home could be a catalyst awakening us to the value of eating locally, travelling less and just slowing down and connecting to our community.

After this crisis passes, we might find the old business as usual less compelling. We might learn that not travelling long distances didn’t stop us travelling; it just enlivened us to the richness of local travel.

Written by Freya Higgins-Desbiolles. Republished with permission of The Conversation.


 Winter is coming: Simple ways to keep energy costs down

Winter is coming: Simple ways to keep energy costs down. It has been a sweltering Australian summer and for most retirees, this means that they are likely to endure one final summer blow: a high energy bill. Read more:

It has been a sweltering Australian summer and for most retirees, this means that they are likely to endure one final summer blow: a high energy bill.

According to recent Mozo research, households were expected to waste a jaw dropping $774 on bad energy habits this summer, with the biggest culprit - leaving the air conditioner on overnight.

So if you’ve been stung with a high summer energy bill, now is the time to get prepped in time for winter - below are some helpful tips.

Switch on smarter bulbs

Did you know that lighting accounts for seven per cent of a household’s annual energy usage?

What’s even more surprising is that according to Red Energy, standard incandescent light bulbs use the majority of its energy to heat up a bulb and only 10% is then converted into light, making them highly inefficient. 

You can get smarter with your lighting by switching to more energy efficient light bulbs, like compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

These bulbs use up to 80 per cent less electricity and last up to 20 times longer than regular light bulbs, which can come in handy if you spend most of your time at home.

Take advantage of rebates in your state

Whether you live in New South Wales or Tasmania, most Australians dread the day their energy bill arrives in the mail.

New research has even shown that electricity costs is one of the top two financial stressors for Australian households.

So to ease the pinch of high bill, it’s worth looking into various government energy rebates you may be eligible for.

There are a range of rebates available from solar battery storage to owning energy efficient appliances, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one you can apply for. 

For instance, the Seniors Energy Rebate, which is available in NSW, provides independent retirees with a $200 rebate on their electricity bill every year, while pensioners or veterans may be eligible for a $285 low-income household rebate.

Just keep in mind that you may need to supply relevant documentation to confirm your eligibility, like your Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, so be sure to have these handy when you apply.

Get picky with your plan

From picking up a new toaster to locking down a good deal on your phone bill, there’s no denying the value of shopping around for the best price.

And as deregulated energy markets, like New South Wales and Victoria continue to grow, the result can only mean competitive pricing and more options for customers.

Following a Mozo number crunch of 427 electricity plans from 37 retailers, our data revealed that households have the potential to save an average of $554 a year, just by shopping around.

So once you’re ready to start shopping around on energy plans, be sure to have your most recent bill nearby to make the process smoother.

It’s important to look beyond flashy discounts and incentives many retailers offer new customers and instead consider whether the plan provides long term benefits and savings.

Making sure there are no lock-in contracts or exit fees is also important because it can give you the flexibility to move between plans if better offers become available.

Go heavy with your sheets

As the seasons change, many Australians use it as an opportunity to give their bedroom a facelift with some new decor.

But during winter, it’s also the chance to give your space an energy efficient upgrade.

There’s nothing worse than a bad nights sleep or waking up in a with frozen fingers and toes, so it might be best to start with switching out your thinner bedsheets for thicker and heavier fabrics, like fleece.

This will keep you warm during colder nights, without having to resort to the switching on the heating or electric blanket.

Aside from being somewhat inexpensive, fleece sheets are great at insulating heat, are more durable and can absorb water or moisture faster than regular sheets.

This is a guest post from Mozo, a trailblazer in energy comparison, providing Australians with practical energy saving tips and expert analysis.

Mozo believes that getting a better deal on energy doesn’t have to be complicated and that no Australian should be paying more than they have for the same service.

Written by Ceyda Erem. Republished with permission of Downsizing.com.au.