A new generation of travellers is emerging who are more aware of the environment and sustainability issues than ever before - and it is vital that the travel industry encourages these people to become ambassadors for responsible tourism.
That was the message from former royal marine turned marine biologist and broadcaster Monty Halls, who brought the 2018 Aito overseas conference (November 22-25) to a close with an important, inspiring and encouraging message for those working in the travel trade.
Halls, who presented Channel 4’s My Family and the Galapagos earlier this year and has since been appointed brand ambassador for First Class Holidays, said after spending three months on the Galapagos with his family, the islands proved a “perfect lens” to examine wider ecological issues around the world and how there are always unforeseen consequences of tourism booms.
“When it was set up as a world heritage site, Unesco said it could support 8,400 tourists,” Halls told delegates. “Last year, 220,000 tourists went there. It was inevitable that things started happening. You have the impact of plastics, which is a global problem. Then you had problems like illegal fishing to support the volume of people turning up.”
Halls said it was incumbent on those who arrange travel to far-flung places to ensure it is done well. “I think this industry has real responsibility. You are the gatekeepers to sustainable travel.”
However, he also said there were significant positives to travel and tourism. “By providing experiences in these remote places, what you are doing is creating the most wonderful ambassadors,” said Halls.
“There is evidence the best way to save delicate, threatened eco-systems is to send tourists there. You create a viable local economy that has real value for the whole nation. Running responsible tourist operations, getting people to these places well advised, well researched and working with partners in country who have a sustainable environmental message, is a huge responsibility.
“There is a revolution going on. Local people and tourists are keen to engage with this sustainability message. That’s really powerful. For some environments, getting tourists there might be their last hope.
“I firmly believe there is a new generation more aware of the environment and sustainability issues than we ever were. That generation is putting pressure on their parents to encourage them to travel sustainably, to be responsible. So there is a generation of responsible parents emerging as well; that has a dramatic impact on the way people travel.”