Tag: Environmental Community

Picture related to tourism can aid destinations in addressing climate change

According to forecasts from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the global tourism sector is anticipated to witness a substantial increase, with projections indicating a surge to 1.8 billion tourists annually by 2030. This growth underscores the pivotal role of tourism destinations in driving economic progress. However, the sector’s expansion is poised to be significantly impacted by the effects of climate change, both directly and indirectly.

This is the sunset view from the badaban ecocottage
Sunset view from Badaban EcoCottage (Photo Credit: Greater Sundarbans Ecotourism Society)

Tourism can exert a substantial influence on the environment, contributing to pollution, waste generation, and harm to local ecosystems and biodiversity. Meanwhile, climate change introduces additional challenges such as flooding, land degradation, loss of natural habitats, saltwater intrusion, diminished food resources, and heightened storm intensity. Tourism businesses can be catalysts in either exacerbating climate change-induced challenges or champions in helping communities and destinations address these threats head-on.

The pressing issue of climate change in destinations, exacerbated by escalating greenhouse gas emissions and resultant global warming, will be a defining challenge for the tourism industry over the next several decades. Consequently, the tourism sector bears a significant responsibility to champion environmental preservation and adopt sustainable practices to effectively address the challenges posed by climate change in the realm of travel and tourism.

In this blog post, we will discuss the significance of tourism in helping destinations address climate change. Specifically, we will explore tourism for climate change adaptation and mitigation, its role in decreasing carbon emissions, its impact on local economies, and its potential for promoting environmental education and awareness.

Tourism Destinations for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

Climate change presents escalating challenges to our planet. To effectively tackle this urgent issue, it is essential to implement two critical strategies: Climate Change Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation.

Climate change mitigation endeavors to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, where the travel and tourism sectors play a pivotal role. The most important approach involves reducing energy consumption through enhanced energy efficiency measures and the adoption of renewable energy sources. Offsetting carbon emissions via carbon offset programs can also be an important strategy and one that has grown substantially in interest and scale over the past decade. However, it is important to note the significant criticism that carbon offset programs have received, and thus such programs must also come alongside significant and meaningful reductions in emissions from the source.

Numerous tourism enterprises are actively engaging in these initiatives. In regions like the Maldives, distant travel destinations, air travel significantly contributes to the tourism industry’s carbon footprint. Attaining Net Zero emissions poses a formidable challenge due to the complexity of eliminating carbon emissions. Nevertheless, some establishments in the Maldives, like Soneva Resorts, have implemented a successful mitigation strategy that targets both direct and indirect carbon emissions. Consequently, certain resorts strive for carbon neutrality by leveraging sustainable energy resources and participating in carbon offset programs.

Climate change adaptation, on the other hand, aims to fortify the resilience of societies, economies, and ecosystems against the existing impacts of climate change. Within the travel and tourism industries, efforts are directed towards safeguarding vulnerable ecosystems and enhancing adaptability. These efforts encompass activities such as coral reef restoration, ecosystem conservation, and sustainable tourism practices.

Many tourism establishments are embracing these adaptation strategies. As an illustration, they delve into pioneering coral restoration methods, such as the initiatives undertaken by Reefscapers. This organization collaborates with resorts to execute management and restoration strategies aimed at rejuvenating marine ecosystems and enhancing the appeal of tourist destinations. Additionally, these companies are actively involved in educating and supporting local communities to raise awareness and bolster resilience against climate change effects.

It is important to note that climate change adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same climate coin: strategies must be advanced in both in order to secure a viable and just future for humanity. The travel and tourism sector actively contributes to addressing and alleviating climate change by employing diverse strategies. These include enhancing energy efficiency, implementing nature-based solutions initiatives to both absorb carbon and address societal challenges and promoting ecosystem conservation. Collaboration among tourism enterprises, local communities, and governmental bodies is deemed crucial in fostering effective climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

* (Check Climate Change and Tourism: How Destinations Are Responding to the Climate Crisis (Part 1 & Part 2) other Solimar pages as well)

Contributing to the Reduction of Carbon Footprints while Preserving Nature

Climate change exerts a diverse range of impacts on various destinations, spanning from heightened occurrences of extreme weather events to shifts in natural landscapes. Prominent tourist sites are contending with unprecedented challenges, with coastal tourism proving especially susceptible to the repercussions of climate change. The imminent menace of rising sea levels poses a direct threat to coastal regions. Essentially, escalating temperatures, adverse weather patterns, and increasing sea levels are gradually eroding the essence of historical landmarks and cultural assets. Nonetheless, tourist areas can undertake diverse initiatives to curb carbon emissions while conserving the environment.

What are the various efforts being made to save nature and reduce carbon footprints?

1. Nature-based Solutions

Nature-based Solutions which is based on climate change
Nature-based Solutions (Credit: IUCN)

One first is Nature-based Solutions. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global entity dedicated to nature conservation and sustainable natural resource management, has championed the concept of nature-based solutions. These solutions encompass actions that safeguard, sustainably manage, and restore nature while simultaneously addressing societal challenges. Nature-based solutions yield a plethora of benefits. They aid in climate change adaptation, mitigate disaster risks by offering protection against storm surges, combat coastal erosion, and even reduce insurance costs.  

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) play a key role in both mitigation and adaptation. When considering mitigation strategies, NbS offers significant potential for carbon capture and storage. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that by 2030, NbS could contribute 30-37% of the cost-effective mitigation required to limit warming to below 2°C. NbS can effectively combat the effects of climate change by sequestering and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through ecosystem preservation and restoration efforts.

When considering adaptation strategies, Natural-based Solutions (NbS) provide crucial support for enhancing resilience against climate-related risks. For instance, coastal ecosystems such as blue-green algae and coral reefs in the Maldives play a vital role in safeguarding communities against storm surges and coastal erosion, thereby mitigating the impacts of severe weather conditions. These ecosystems offer essential services that can aid in climate change adaptation.

Tourism enterprises can advance Nature-based Solutions by investing in them to reap economic benefits, enrich tourists’ experiences, address climate change risks, fulfill social obligations, and collaborate with local communities. This strategic approach not only promotes environmental preservation but also bolsters competitiveness.

Moreover, Nature-based Solutions contribute to improving air and water quality, reducing disease transmission associated with habitat loss, and nurturing educational and psychological well-being. Particularly in island locales, the adoption of natural moisture retention methods can amplify soil moisture absorption and decrease marine pathogens. By embracing them, the dual objectives of reducing carbon emissions, conserving nature, and supporting local communities are efficiently met.

In the Maldives under the USAID Climate Adaptation Project, Solimar International recently supported the Ministry of Tourism in creating the first Climate Action Plan for Tourism in the history of the country. This Action Plan outlines concrete steps for tourism businesses to both mitigate and adapt to climate change through strategies like incorporating community priorities, diversifying business revenue, and investing in NbS via innovative climate financing schemes. You can read the full Action Plan here. 

* (Read the 2022 White Paper by Solimar International on effective nature-based solutions in tourism.)

2.  Supporting and Diversifying Local Economies

Tourism plays a pivotal role in bolstering local economies, thereby contributing to greater economic resilience. However, tourism can also cause dependence on the industry and make destinations more vulnerable to shocks like climate change. Thus, the importance of diversifying local economies through tourism initiatives is key.  Encouraging the consumption of locally sourced goods and services can lead to tangible enhancements in local economies. This approach not only generates employment opportunities within communities but also elevates income levels, fostering sustainable development.

The Maldives is one such successful example of climate change adaptation through the integration of community needs and priorities.

This is the Islands of Horsburgh
The Islands of Horsburgh (Credit: The Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance)

Based on the Maldives Tourism Climate Action Plan, the allure of the Maldives, characterized by its pristine beaches and vibrant coral reefs, faces threats from climate change. Presently, many resorts and guesthouses in the Maldives encounter challenges in sourcing local produce, often resorting to external markets for essentials like tuna or seafood. While this may seem financially prudent initially, these supply chains are susceptible to climate change-induced disruptions, leading to escalating costs over time.

However, by emphasizing community experiences and locally procured goods, the Maldives can effectively ensure local destination resilience while revitalizing its local economy. Interdependencies among food security, climate change, and biodiversity are evident in the Maldives. Local resorts in the Maldives have championed locally sourced products through initiatives like local contract farming in regions such as Addu Atoll. Collaborations like the one between Addu Atoll and the Addu Meedhoo Corporate Society have facilitated local food production. The Maldivian government has also pledged support by providing agricultural resources and requisite training to cultivate selected crops on 40 key agricultural islands.

This is the picture of the community and culture in the Maldives
Community and Culture in the Maldives (Credit: The Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance)

Integrating permaculture projects can tangibly sequester carbon, leverage carbon markets, cater to hotel guests, or introduce value-added products for sale in hotel establishments or spas. These endeavors have curtailed food miles and hotel carbon emissions, conserved local culinary heritage, and agricultural customs, and created employment opportunities for marginalized groups.

Moreover, concerning fisheries in the Maldives, numerous companies have collaborated with local communities to supply proteins like fish from neighboring islands. By engaging local fishermen to establish new markets for previously exported marine products, these companies have mitigated carbon emissions, facilitated robust supply chains, and promoted sustainable fishing practices.

The tourism sector plays a pivotal role in rejuvenating local economies by nurturing enterprises and human resources while safeguarding the environment. Tourism enterprises can bolster local economies by offering employment to community members and preserving local culture and natural habitats. This concerted effort not only addresses climate change but also cultivates a sustainable tourism model, fostering the development of local communities.

* (Check the Maldives Tourism Climate Action Plan to find out what is being done under the USAID Climate Adaptation Project in the Maldives.) 

Promoting Environmental Education and Awareness in Tourism Destinations

Environmental education is crucial in enlightening travelers about the significance of environmental conservation and fostering a consciousness for sustainable travel practices. Tourism operators can cultivate awareness among travelers by integrating environmental education programs before or after their journeys and disseminating information on sustainable travel practices.

Fundamentally, tourism is a conduit for advancing environmental education and consciousness-raising efforts. By integrating components that educate travelers on local heritage, ecosystem preservation measures, and sustainable lifestyles, individuals can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the global environment.

Let’s look at specific regions like the Horsburgh Atoll and the Bangladesh Sundarbans, where we witness exemplary cases of environmental stewardship and sustainable practices.

1. Horsburgh Atoll (Maldives) (Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance)

This picture is about Horsburgh Atoll
Horsburgh Atoll (Credit: The Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance)

The Horsburgh Atoll, nestled in the Maldives, represents a treasure trove combining natural splendor and historical significance. With a unique ecosystem and historical heritage, the atoll is safeguarded and nurtured through environmental education initiatives. Emphasizing sustainable tourism, Horsburgh ensures the conservation of the atoll’s beauty while promoting eco-friendly tourism activities and fostering awareness of sustainable practices within marine protected areas. Furthermore, visitors can engage with local communities, delving into their distinct traditions and craftsmanship, such as intricate woven mats, wood carvings, and traditional Maldivian lacquerworks. These immersive experiences not only enhance cultural understanding but also underscore the interconnectedness and vitality of ecosystems.

Under the USAID Climate Adaptation Project, Solimar has supported the creation of the first Destination Management Organization (DMO) in the Maldives: The Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance (HATA). HATA is a dedicated group of local tourism stakeholders committed to ensuring that tourism in the Horsburgh Atoll contributes positively to community benefits, environmental awareness, and climate adaptation. United by a shared vision, HATA brings together local businesses, conservationists, and community leaders to promote sustainable tourism practices that protect the atoll’s unique ecosystem while enhancing the livelihoods of its inhabitants. By enabling local communities to manage tourism on their terms and ensuring tourism is a force for the environmental education of future visitors, this model ensures that locally relevant solutions can be designed and funded to support climate adaptation efforts. 

* (Check Maldives’ first DMO, The Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance to discover the enchanting Horsburgh Atoll in the Maldives)

2. Bangladesh Sundarbans (Greater Sundarbans EcoTourism Society)

This picture is discovering the Sundarban forests
Discovering the Sundarbans (Credit: Greater Sundarbans EcoTourism Society)

The Sundarbans region prioritizes alternative income sources to forest resource harvesting and ecosystem restoration endeavors. Exploring the forest, engaging with the local communities, and partaking in guided nature tours like forest hikes and boat trips are more popular among the activities available, all while lodging in environmentally-conscious accommodations. Through active participation in ecosystem revitalization projects, like planting native mangrove saplings, tourists directly contribute to enhancing the local ecosystem and partake in activities with positive impacts. Environmental education and awareness are fostered through immersive nature and cultural expeditions, providing interpretive knowledge on herbal plants, wildlife, and forest traditions during guided forest treks. Cultural walking tours enable visitors to explore local landmarks, temples, and cultural performances, including traditional dances and songs, thereby immersing them in the rich tapestry of Bangladesh’s coastal culture. 

The Munda people, an ethnic community inhabiting the Sundarbans mangrove forest region, maintain a profound bond with their natural surroundings and cultural legacy. Despite such virtues, this community faces obstacles such as restricted access to microfinance, benefits, and jobs, impeding their ability to adapt. In coastal Bangladesh, grappling with the effects of climate change, they encounter difficulties obtaining resources and livelihood opportunities. These challenges are often intensified during disasters such as cyclones, tidal surges, etc., that reduce agricultural and other production. Additionally, initiatives to aid them encounter financial limitations, impacting their capacity to maintain their livelihoods and access government support.

However, by engaging with this community, opportunities exist to introduce educational initiatives, and resource and capacity development projects that can facilitate community advancement. Moreover, endorsing sustainable business practices that capitalize on their distinctive local ecological knowledge, expertise, and traditions, along with partaking in Munda festivals and cultural gatherings, can bolster appreciation for their ethos and heritage. This approach nurtures mutual respect, opens avenues for their seamless integration within the broader local community, and reduces racial gaps. Consequently, visitors will be able to discover a cottage managed by the Munda community and learn about The Greater Sundarbans EcoTourism Society’s contribution to branding these cottages. This initiative aims to provide tourists with a genuine indigenous experience, promoting a better understanding of the interconnected relationship between local communities and their surroundings.

In tackling the challenges posed by climate change, the tourism sector can significantly contribute by empowering marginalized groups who often encounter social marginalization. By involving these communities, they can secure livelihoods and actively participate in climate resilience endeavors, thus improving their living standard. The pivotal role of the Greater Sundarbans region in supporting these endeavors cannot be understated.

* (Check out the Bangladesh Ecotourism and Conservation Alliance website  to discover more about the USAID Ecotourism Activity project in and around the Sundarbans Reserved Forest through the development, management, and marketing of sustainable tourism)

This picuture is the Sundarban Tiger in the forest.
The Sundarban Tiger (Photo Credit: Vignesh, Pexels)

Underscoring the significance of sustainable development through environmental education is imperative to strike a harmonious balance between local economic progress and environmental conservation. These initiatives play a pivotal role in fostering the sustainable growth of local communities and offering travelers a glimpse into the region’s distinctive culture and natural allure. By championing climate change awareness, preserving indigenous ecosystems and cultures, and providing immersive encounters, these endeavors significantly enrich the travel experience. 



This picture is the Badaban EcoCottages
Badaban EcoCottages (Photo Credit: Greater Sundarbans EcoTourism Society)

Another example of how locally relevant solutions can empower climate change mitigation and adaptation is the Sundarbans EcoVillages situated in the Sundarbans region of Bangladesh. The Sundarbans EcoVillages comprise multiple villages or communities rather than a singular location. This initiative revolves around community-based tourism, empowering residents to generate diverse sources of income from tourism activities instead of depending on unsustainable resource extraction from the Sundarbans for their livelihoods. By establishing eco-tourism initiatives rooted in community values, the region has transformed into a destination that encourages community involvement and enables visitors to engage deeply with the Sundarbans’ ecological and cultural marvels for extended durations.

Moreover, the communities serve as a hub for unique encounters, educational interactions, and cultural immersion, fostering a profound bond between the community and the natural environment. This community-based tourism concept actively promotes rural advancement and biodiversity conservation, offering guests various programs to rejuvenate the ecosystem. For instance, visitors can aid in ecosystem conservation by purchasing local artworks or engaging in a tree-planting initiative to cultivate mangroves around the EcoVillages.

These endeavors not only empower travelers to diminish their carbon footprint but also yield a positive impact in combating climate change, including mitigating global warming.

Conclusion: The Crucial Role of Tourism in Combating Climate Change

This picture is the Spotted deer in Sundarbans national park in Bangladesh
Spotted deer in the Sundarbans (Photo Credit: nicolasdecorte, istock)

In conclusion, the tourism sector holds significant potential in the fight against climate change. By emphasizing sustainable travel, reducing carbon footprints, backing local economies, and fostering environmental awareness, tourism enterprises actively contribute to environmental protection and climate change mitigation.

Also, tourism plays a pivotal role in climate change mitigation by bolstering local economies, preserving ecosystems, advocating environmental education, and endorsing sustainable tourism practices. The tourism industry can effectively combat climate change by championing positive environmental impacts while fostering community and environmental well-being.

Nonetheless, the sustainable future of tourism hinges on a collaborative effort between travelers and industry stakeholders. By opting for eco-friendly accommodations, embracing low-impact transportation, and making sustainable travel decisions, individuals can aid in building resilient destinations. Prioritizing community welfare and minimizing carbon emissions are crucial to achieving sustainable development goals.

The dynamic tourism landscape necessitates a transition towards responsible and environmentally conscious travel practices. Embracing sustainability, fortifying destination resilience, and enriching traveler education are key elements in safeguarding the future of the tourism sector. Today’s decisions will shape tomorrow’s travel experiences as we confront the challenges of climate change.

By comprehending the intricate interplay between climate change and tourism, we envision a future where exploration and conservation coexist, fostering widespread appreciation for the Earth’s natural wonders. 

We must all work together to protect the future of our planet.

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