Is low-carbon tourism possible?


To answer it simply, yes (but with reservations). Yes, as it is now the time for sustainability — the tourism industry is compelled to be sustainable as it is, sadly, one of the most resource-intensive industries with all the events, shuttling back-and-forth, and infrastructure building. But based on numerous articles and updates from hotels, resorts, even travel agencies, they are cognizant of the need to have their operations sustainable. They have done it, still doing it, and have plans to upscale sustainability efforts. In short, if the tourism industry couldn’t find ways to be sustainable, then we’re doomed!

It is possible for tourism stakeholders to be sustainable… as long as they continue to have that burning passion, not just because of the publicity or the “good branding.” They (e.g. the management to the team members) shouldn’t be just excited at the start, but be involved all the way – from conceptualization to implementation – or else, it will be just a futile exercise.

Aph Cruz, founder of Las Islas Travel and Tours, shared with me how low-carbon tourism is possible. She speaks from experience as her company was recognized for championing responsible and sustainable tourism. It is also the first tour-operator recipient of the 2018 ASEAN Sustainable Tourism Award in the Philippines and the first travel company in the country to be a member of Sustainable Travel International, a mission-driven organization dedicated to protecting and conserving our planet’s most vulnerable destinations.

“Tourism is fundamentally linked to climate change. According to a report made by the World Travel and Tourism Council in November 2021, carbon emissions of the travel and tourism industry range from eight to 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (3.9 to 5.4 billion tons of CO2 emissions out of a total of 48.9b tCO2e in 2019). This makes the travel and tourism sector a significant contributor to climate change,” Aph said. “We cannot tell people to stop traveling, but we can make the travel industry more sustainable. The Philippine tourism industry’s pathway to recovery should be anchored on the principles of low-carbon tourism, the kind of travel that contributes the least impact on the planet.”
In 2022, Aph said that her company took its commitment to sustainable tourism to the next level by becoming a full-fledged member of Sustainable Travel International.

“As a pioneer member from the Philippines, we are now part of a global movement of conscientious travelers and businesses that are passionate about making a difference and giving back to the places we depend on. We are working to transform tourism’s impact on nature and people by operating alongside local communities, engaging travelers and businesses in responsible practices, and strengthening destination management,” she said. “We aim to safeguard nature, combat climate change, and empower communities to preserve the integrity of destinations in the Philippines and around the globe.”
We hope that there would be others like Aph who is conscientious about her company’s role as a sustainability advocate.

She stressed that restarting travel should be done “responsibly” and “ethically” at a time of anthropogenic climate change. “Moving forward, the Philippine travel industry should ensure that it is headed for long-term success and progress by employing best practices in sustainability. This means rebuilding a Philippine tourism industry that values the health of the planet and its people.”

We couldn’t agree more when she has this as conclusion: “By reducing the carbon footprint of the travel industry, tourism can be used as a force for good that could benefit generations to come. Sustainability should now be the new and better normal.”