V.before the holiday experience comes the burning. Kerosene is burned on the flight, petrol or diesel in the car or coach. The corona pandemic, during which the emissions caused by holidaymakers fell drastically, should be considered the heyday of sustainability. But Petra Thomas, managing director of the Anders Reisen forum, has nothing positive to say about the crisis. “The crisis works like a burning glass. It shows in how many places problems only arise when there is no tourism. “
Thomas speaks for an alliance of 130 small and medium-sized providers who want to promote more sustainable vacations and have been able to sell almost no trips for months: Finca vacations in Mallorca’s hinterland instead of party days in Playa de Palma, hiking in Costa Rica’s natural parks instead of sunbathing in the Caribbean. Their customers usually fly too, but Thomas puts it into perspective: “Mobility causes emissions, but that is only one aspect of the debate about sustainable travel.”
Equally important is “that a lot of the travel prices paid reach the locals so that tourism secures their livelihoods and prevents poverty”. No money flows without guests. “There is a lack of income from tourism for nature conservation,” she complains. During the widespread standstill, more reports of poaching have come from Africa, where otherwise paying guests go on safari.
Big wishes, little willingness to pay
Before Corona, German vacationers had a relationship full of contradictions to sustainability. 61 percent of the citizens surveyed by the vacation and travel research group stated that their vacation should be socially acceptable, resource-saving and environmentally friendly. 6 percent then paid attention to sustainability labeling, and 3 percent offset emissions with an additional payment. In 2019, Germans set out on 70.8 million major trips and 87.6 million short trips. The wanderlust cost them 97 billion euros. In addition, the proportion of travel by plane in the year of the Fridays for Future demonstrations rose to an all-time high.
Nevertheless, there are also signs of a rethink. “The target group for sustainable travel is growing. Their share is still in the single-digit percentage range, but the group is growing, ”says tourism professor Harald Zeiss. He teaches at the Harz University of Applied Sciences and heads the Inatour Institute for Sustainable Tourism. “When the Corona crisis is behind us, the topic of sustainability will come back on the agenda,” he is convinced.
Negative ecological balance, but a lot of added value
For the industry, this is initially connected with a sober message. “From a purely ecological point of view, there are hardly any positive effects from traveling. At best, the protection of areas from other dangers should be mentioned,” says Zeiss. “A hotel that is not built in Indonesia, roughly speaking, leads to the forest being cleared for palm oil plantations.” That is probably not enough for a positive sustainability balance of tourism.
“With a view to the local added value, however, the result is different. The billions that travelers spend do not end up entirely with German tour operators, ”says Zeiss. Their business is considered low-margin anyway. Hotels in the Caribbean don’t get food from Germany either. Groceries are easier to get on site, cheaper and sometimes better. Tourism creates economic foundations there. “Tourism is a big employer on site. That is the positive aspect of the industry, a lot of added value is achieved with relatively few resources, ”he says.