Sustainable tourism essentially refers to the practice taken by the tourism industry. There are both positive and negative impacts of sustainable tourism however the main aim is to increase the positive ones and minimise the negative ones. Tourism helps to create new job opportunities, preserve and interpret cultural heritage, wildlife preservation and landscape restoration. On the other hand, some of the adverse effects includes economic leakage, damage to the natural environment as well as overcrowding.
Ecotourism is another important concept of sustainable travel. The ecotourism definition by the Global Ecotourism Network (GEN) explains, “Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education of all involved (visitors, staff and the visited).”
Meanwhile responsible travel refers to an individual’s actions that support sustainable tourism. These actions focus on minimising the negative impacts and maximising positive ones when visiting a tourism location.
When we think about sustainability, words such as global warming, pollution, recycling, environment comes to mind. However, we are also left pondering the answers to many questions like what exactly is sustainability? How does it affect us? What can we do to contribute to being sustainable? Not to worry as this piece will answer all your burning questions and thoughts you may have about sustainability.
1a. What is sustainability?
According to the UN Brundtland Commission mentioned in 1983, “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In short, sustainable development is up to us to ensure so that our future generations do not face any difficulties in meeting their own needs. Everything that we depend on directly or indirectly on our natural resources is needed for survival. Through sustainability, we can create and maintain the conditions for humans and nature to exist in productive harmony which will help to support our future generation. You may be wondering how important is it to us if it doesn't affect us now? Well, because of climate change that is currently happening, there is a possibility that things may take a turn for the worse if we do not do anything to prevent it.
1b. What causes sustainability issues?
Currently there are multiple issues that stands in the way of attaining sustainable development. One such issue is global warming climate change. Human activities have caused a rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and greenhouse gases emissions which increases the average global temperatures, extreme weather changes, rising sea levels and many other negative changes. These activities pose as a global threat which will affect all forms of life directly and indirectly. Deforestation, industrialisation, transportation and overfilling landfills are some examples of these human activities.
Another issue affecting the earth is water pollution and ocean acidification. Mostly contributed by industrialisation, improper sewage disposal, oil spills, disposal of chemical and radioactive wastes and plastic pollutions are some of the activities that contributes to pollution. When the wastes gets thrown into the ocean, ocean acidification takes place as 30% of CO2 gets absorbed by the ocean water which got released in the atmosphere. This in turn undergoes a series of chemical reactions by the seawater as higher concentrations of hydrogen ions makes the seawater more acidic. The higher the acidity, the more the marine life gets affected. It starts by affecting clams, deep sea corals, oysters and many others that struggle to maintain their shells and other calcium carbonate structures due to the decrease in carbonate ions in the water. Soon it starts to affect the aquatic life which puts the entire food chain at risk.
Finally, the loss of biodiversity is another main factor that prevents sustainability. Biodiversity helps to maintain the balance of the ecosystem which allows us to exist as it provides biological resources. Similar to the previous two factors, habitat destruction, climate change, pollution and secondary extinction are some of the activities that humans are engaging in which brings harm to our biodiversity.
1c. What can we do to combat sustainable issues?
While these issues may be rising during recent times, there are always solutions to them that will help to reduce the negative effects. One of the most important solutions that we all should take and adapt to our daily lives is recycling. Often known as the three stages of recycling, you only need to take three simple steps such as reduce, reuse and recycle. By following these steps and integrating them in your daily lives, you can make a difference. Some simple steps include reducing plastic use for groceries and reusing paper bags or tote bags to carry groceries. You can also reduce waste by purchasing products without excessive packaging or reuse items more than once before disposing it. If you wish to make a difference and even devote your time, you may also volunteer at organisations. Volunteering comes in many forms such as doing a beach clean-up and getting involved in community projects that helps promote sustainability in terms of creating products or sharing ideas.
You can also shop sustainably during these times, by making decisions such as choosing biodegradable products, purchasing recycled products and eco labelled goods and opting for energy efficient when purchasing electrical appliances. Another main action you can take is to educate those around you how important it is for all of us to help contribute for the betterment of our future. Many people around us may be aware of the current situation of our environment, however there are some that fail to understand how extreme it will become when the situation escalates. They may not be able to identify the ways they can help to combat environmental issues. Hence, it is good to spread the word around about how everyone plays a part and what exactly we can do. If you would like to find out other actions you can take, do check out World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Armenia Green Living Tips.
1d. Sustainable Development Goals
The 2030 sustainable development goals were adopted by all United Nation Member States in 2015. The main aim for these goals is to protect our earth and tackle climate change in order to preserve our oceans and forests. Presented as an agenda for 2030, they call for action from developing and developed countries and provide a blueprint for peace and prosperity for the planet and people. The 17 goals are accompanied by a set of targets and corresponding indicators to measure our progress towards those goals. If you would like to find out more about these goals specifically, check out the United Nations website here.
Now that we know what sustainability is, let’s dive into how sustainability can play a part in tourism by exploring the respective tourism sectors, namely: Hotels / Attractions / Tours / Flights / Cruises / Events
2. How have the different sectors of tourism integrated sustainability?
Sustainable Tourism in Hotels
One area sustainability has been integrated into our tourism industry under Hotels in Singapore is through launching of the Hotel Sustainability Roadmap by Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Singapore Hotel Association (SHA). On 21st March 2022, the roadmap was launched in line with the Singapore Green Plan 2030 which helps to set clear targets and strategies for hotels to adopt sustainability. There are two targets that are set for this industry to allow them to contribute to the sustainable development goals, strengthen enterprise resilience, get new opportunities presented by the Green Economy as well as tap on new visitor segments. Firstly, they aim to get at least 60% of hotel room stock in Singapore to get certified as an internationally recognised sustainable hotel by 2025. Secondly, hotels should start tracking their emissions by 2023 and reduce them by 2030 so that they can achieve their long-term goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. They have a total of 4 strategies and initiatives to help them achieve these targets, one of which includes getting the sustainability certificate. Another strategy includes test bed and adopting innovative sustainable solutions. Their third strategy is to develop sustainable hotel concepts and experiences in Singapore. Finally, they intend to spread this message and raise awareness of hotels’ sustainability efforts and promote sustainable consumption habits amongst their guests. If you wish to find out more details pertaining this, click on their infographic here.
Sustainable Tourism in Attractions
In the sector of attractions, there are multiple organisations taking sustainability into account and ensuring they meet the goals Singapore has. One such attraction is Gardens By The Bay which house a diverse collection of the plants that are rare especially those which are of high conservation value. Consisting of two glass biomes, the conservatories replicate the cool-dry climate of the Mediterranean and semi-arid sub-tropical regions and the cool-moist climate of the Tropical Montane region. The technologies used allows Garden By The Bay to reduce our energy consumption by approximately 20% as compared to buildings using conventional cooling technologies. There are 4 other practices are taken by Gardens By The Bay which you can check out here.
Meanwhile in Mandai Reserves, you get to sponsor a tree or bench which features a personalised plaque bearing your name. You may also volunteer in tree planting where every tree that is relocated or removed, six more trees will be planted. Finally, you may sponsor an artwork which will be placed in key locations to create social spaces and cultivate an appreciation for wildlife and nature. Another organisation that integrates sustainability is Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC). With multiple attractions present, Sentosa launched Singapore’s first carbon neutral beers with Brewerks to encourage guests to have their holiday anytime. They have many more leisure experiences with a low carbon footprint through unique and sustainable off-grid offerings powered by 100% renewable energy. SDC is currently working on reducing their energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions so that they continue working on developing as a sustainable leisure destination. They are also working on their waste management to encourage guests to recycle and adopt an eco-conscious lifestyle by using a smart Reverse Vending Machine (RVMs) with National Environment Agency (NEA). Feel free to read on Sustainable Sentosa.
Sustainable Tourism in Tour Companies
Tour companies that brings you on guided tours are now integrating sustainability in their tours. In Monster Day Tours, we ensure that our Mother Earth stays protected and wish to educate everyone around us on how significant global warming is. Integrating sustainability with cooking, we take you on a tour around the sustainable farm located at the rooftop of Funan Mall. You get to learn more about the fresh herbs grown naturally and head to a cooking workshop where you will cook a 3-course peranakan meal from scratch using fresh ingredients. Click here to find out more about this tour and book your tickets! Marina Bay Sands’ sustainability tour is another tour which brings you around the are showing you the efforts taken by MBS to be inclusive. They focus on many areas to ensure they contribute to reduce the effects of global warming. Revolving around Sans Eco 360, some of their initiatives include recycling 136 tonnes of plastic on a yearly basis, reducing water consumption by 140 Olympic swimming pools each year, committing to sourcing 50% responsible seafood and many more. Their guided tour takes you around their tipping wall to Gardens By The Bay. If you are interested in joining the tour and want to know more, click here.
Sustainable Tourism in Flight Companies
Under the category of flights, sustainability is taken into account in various stages. Singapore Airlines is one company that supports the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals where they have identified goals 8, 12 and 13 which focuses on decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption and production and climate action respectively. Topics such as environment, governance, employees, safety, customer-focus, supplier and shareholders are 7 material topics they have come up with, to support these goals. Check out the specifics of these topics to learn more about their ambition and relevant SDG included. Another airline company is Scoot which focuses on goals 7, 9, 13, 15 and 17 which are affordable and clean energy, industry innovation and infrastructure, climate action, life on land and partnerships for the goals respectively. They have narrowed it down to 2 strategies which are climate action and biodiversity. Under these strategies they have many initiatives they undertake, check their page out for more information. Finally, JetStar is another company that is committed to minimising its impact on the environment. JetStar plans to deploy some fuel efficiency strategies to reduce fuel consumption and minimise their footprint. Some of them include new fuel-efficient aircraft, advanced navigational aircraft technology, reducing aircraft weight and many more. In addition to this, they are exploring other alternatives to traditional jet fuel, mostly Sustainable Aviation Fuel. This will help to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere. If you’re interested to better understand their strategies, read more about their Commitment To Environment Sustainability.
Sustainable Tourism in Cruises
Cruise companies have also dedicated their time to focus on the SDGs. Royal Caribbean is one company that believes that "respect for the oceans is not a choice, it’s a way of life”. They have chosen from goal 4 to goal 17. Some of their initiatives include promoting sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products, scoring 100% on the corporate equality index by the Human Rights Corporation and many more. They have also simplified the topics to global giving, destination stewardship, seastainability at the group, being a good neighbour, sustainable tourism, leading the way in change, our people, ocean conservation and design and innovation. Check their website to learn more about the various topic they have included!
Sustainable Tourism in Events
Finally, under the sector of events, there are many events in Singapore that raises awareness of sustainability. One such event is the iLight festival that is held annually ever since 2010. The Leading sustainable light festival is held in Marina Bay which showcases artists’ creation of light art installations from Singapore and globally. Designed to save energy and made with environmentally friendly materials, it encourages festival goers and the public to integrate sustainability habits in their everyday lives. Not only these features, but there’s a range of fringe activities for the visitors to participate in. Another remarkable event that takes place in Singapore is Formula 1 (F1). In 2022, for the first time, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and race organiser, Singapore GP, will be partnering together to encourage and ensure a reduction of the carbon footprint for the race to shift to a moe sustainable business models. The race plans will make use of more renewable energy sources, ramping up recycling efforts and converting to sustainable materials. Check out this article if you want to know more.