Monday 12 May 2008

Tourism - a bumpy ride ahead?

The tourism industry is set for a turbulent time.

Oil has just reached a record high of $120 per barrel. Ethanol production, touted as the green alternative has now attracted criticism as the cause of lower food production and subsequent higher prices. Butanol, Richard Branson’s alternative fuel aircraft may be a passing phenomenon.

More serious is the growing consciousness that human activity is the cause of global warming, serious storms and human tragedies. Flying is believed to be the worst offending act. Since giving up holidays completely is not an option, ways of salving our green conscience will be sought. One way is taking at least one holiday each year in the UK. Kelkoo, a price comparison site reports a 39% increase in the number of people searching for UK holidays.

For overseas destinations however, a demonstration of the measures being taken to combat global warming is required. Tropical countries should be getting more of their energy needs from the Sun with solar panels and photo voltaic cells. Another renewable source is hydro-power. ICELANDAIR trumpets their green credentials in their advertising: “Discover the source of green energy”, is the headline with an image of waterfalls.

Another measure is offering greener vehicles, particularly for tourists. Hertz has a green collection of cars that meet the EU’s 2008 voluntary target of 140g/km C02 Output. Avis offers natural gas cars in Germany and Hybrids in Portugal. The real breakthrough may be in Electric cars. Carlos Ghosn, the Chief Executive of Nissan has embarked on an ambitious plan to dominate this sector by the year 2012. He is confident that improved batteries and the problem of speedier re-charging will be solved soon. The country that adopts this technology will reduce smogs caused by traffic jams and generally improve the quality of the air.

Planting more trees is another ideal. A Swedish tour operator has bought land in Malta and plants one tree for every tourist he flies in. Governments should not rely on such generosity. Sugar cane fields should be bordered by long lasting trees like jacaranda, and Le flamboyant for beauty and Tamarind, Neem and Jamboul for usefulness. Such a strip would have the added advantage of being a fire break. Off shore and uninhabited islands could be made green havens to encourage endangered bird species and wherever possible new mangrove plantations could be created to make habitats for fish nurseries.

Governments could also provide incentives for hoteliers who provide green eco-friendly resorts. According to the Sunday Times Travel magazine, The Jet wing hotel in Sri Lanka recycles its waste and pays local farmers to produce organic produce.

The idea of getting local people to benefit is a good thing. The Feynan Eco lodge in Jordan is run on solar power and is run by Bedouin in collaboration with Jordan’s Royal society for the conservation of nature. The ll Ngwesi is an eight room thatched lodge in Kenya’s uplands that also runs on solar power. The Masai who help manage it get 40% of the profits.

The time has passed when tourist boards had only to organise themselves for growth. Growing tourist numbers or even maintaining your share will depend on how efficiently you anticipate social and political trends and prepare for them.

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