First affected by the coronavirus crisis, the tourism sector is going through difficult times. What if this unprecedented period was an opportunity to rethink unreasonable tourist activity and practices that are not always very respectful of the planet and its inhabitants?
Let us remember this startling example: last February, a ski resort had snow delivered by helicopter to satisfy its customers. This type of ubiquitous situation generated by mass tourism no longer has its place in the world after.
CO emissions2 inconsiderate, degradation of the landscapes and stormy cohabitation between travelers and residents, overtourism seems to be at the end of the line. Today, we need to rethink everything and come back to the true values of travel: taking your time, going to meet others, discovering cultures different from your own … Sustainable alternatives, such as slow travel – or “humble and gentle journey” -, must be encouraged and developed by the players in the sector.
How did we get there ?
Since the first paid holidays, the tourist offer has concentrated in a few places which are now victims of overtourism. The end of the classic holidays (three weeks in July-August and two more at Christmas), favored by RTT and low cost flights for Citybreaks, pollutes enormously. The tourism of “consumption” of a destination has taken precedence over that of its discovery. These excesses cause the saturation of many cities and the denunciation of this hypertourism by a large part of their inhabitants who denounce its perverse effects (Venice, Barcelona, Amsterdam to name a few). With the advent of social networks, and in particular Instagram, the race for the perfect shot ruins many destinations. Everyone now lives a standardized experience far from the singularity of a region, rich in its history and culture, where we have come to immerse ourselves.
How to act?
As is already the case in Cinque Terre (Italy), Santorini (Greece) or Machu Picchu (Peru), limiting the number of daily visitors allowed to visit the sites is a radical solution, but necessary as the situation is so urgent. .
In the longer term, the salvation of the tourism sector will depend on the creation of new offers (95% of travelers go to 5% of the planet according to the UNWTO *). Travelers can now turn to forgotten territories like the many villages of France which are dying and which are only waiting for tourists to boost their local economy. Why not play the proximity card? It is by going (re) discovering our local heritage and our 334 (!) National or regional nature reserves, by bringing back to life the small shops and restaurants in our regions that our travels will find reason, sustainability and authenticity.
Hypertourism also rhymes with rapidly thought-out constructions that cause visual pollution, yet easily avoidable by favoring existing buildings or solutions that do not require any heavy infrastructure, such as recreational vehicles or tent camping.
Rethinking the tourist offer
Making tourism sustainable has become a priority for 72% of travelers*, tour operators must cooperate without delay with local authorities in order to create new tourist offers spread over the territory and over the year, less concentrated in rare periods and regions.
It is now time to become aware of the issues and to effect a change in mentalities and practices. Each actor in the sector must ask the right questions: are we doing enough to limit waste and CO emissions?2 ? Do we have a positive environmental and social impact? Have we identified and are we using to the maximum of their abilities all the solutions that respect the planet?
Proof that the idea has gained ground: failing to be able to offer a “clean” service, many aviation players now offer carbon offsets. This type of initiative should be encouraged to raise awareness among tourists and enable them to reduce their environmental impact. Another example: a famous national airline will soon reduce its domestic flights when there is a rail alternative to less than two and a half hours.
Let’s learn to travel again
Contrary to the injunction of mass tourism to see and do everything, the slow travel encourages you to take your time. When traveling, we often tend to reproduce the same pattern as that of our daily life (between professional and family life): running at a pace!
It is not a question of collecting destinations and making the most of your time spent in a country by doing as many activities as possible, but of privileging quality over quantity: going towards what is good, simple, interesting and accessible. Slow travel brings us closer to the authenticity and the unknown while respecting the environment that surrounds us (nature, ecosystems, populations …): going to meet the locals, awakening one’s consciousness, leaving one’s area comfort and habits.
There are a thousand and one reasons to travel. Let us choose those that are beneficial both for the planet and our personal and family balance.
We are fortunate to live in France, a country of incredible richness with varied landscapes, which is located in the heart of Europe, a vast playground where everything is easily accessible by land transport and where hidden corners are n ‘ are waiting to be discovered. The real change of scenery is closer than you think, so let’s not take long to enjoy it!