People will always travel and that wouldn’t disappear. But what are important is behaviour and the form of tourism in New Zealand in 2050. The Eco Paradise scenario is about responsibility – a world of eco-conscious, eco-friendly hotels and a world where Prime Minister John Key is greener than Shrek or Kermit the Frog (metaphorically). New Zealand would have social capital, pure authenticity and sustainable solutions to the impacts of climate change. It’s a place where government would develop feasible policy options that positions tourism as New Zealand’s first and everlasting tourism industry. A place that is a first choice career, a first in the terms of quality, first in the terms of the environment, the first industry of New Zealand from a work and play perspective. Combined, these principles of being first make New Zealand’s tourism industry an everlasting proposition in which we protect the land, resources and experiences for future generations.
Why is such a proposition important?
Society has changed; all parts of the travel sector have re-evaluated their policies towards the environment. For example, the Dutch airline KLM has been experimenting with bio-kerosene since 2009 and started using it for its flights between Amsterdam and Paris in the summer of 2011 when it became legal to use the fuel for commercial flights. Air New Zealand has done the same. A fleet of electric buses developed by Hyundai and Hankuk Fibre, named the e-Primus, is operating on the streets of Seoul. Meanwhile, Eurostar won the 2012 PEA Award for “greenest transport” for its many environmental efforts. Alpine Pearls is a series of environmentally friendly holidays in 24 regions in the Alps. They target the same market as travel agency Kuoni, which launched Ananea - a “collection of socially and environmentally responsible holidays”, including a variety of eco-options. Eco-ethical travelling does not merely refer to choosing the right hotel or airline. Respecting the environment also means selecting those travel options which offer a unique experience while valuing the authenticity of the destination and its inhabitants. For example, staying in a hotel built in the traditional style of the area, rather than in a generic skyscraper – or getting to meet the natives instead of bothering them with excessive noise and pollution. Camouflage Tree Hotel is a four metre-squared structure made from lightweight aluminium and clad in mirrored glass. For example, located in the forests of Sweden, the structure is designed to create feeling of being at one with nature and heat is generated using an eco-friendly source. This approach like others adds value, focuses on high yielding tourists and sustainable.
But we can go further; tourism has to be everyone’s business. Think of the future of hotels as your home. At one level, it’s about small bed and breakfast establishments providing local knowledge and authentic experiences. In 2011, Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson launched a new tourist initiative which encouraged residents to open their homes for tourists. The President asked people to welcome visitors into their homes and tell them about the Icelandic “experience”. So, we should be doing the same. Shouldn’t our leaders set the same example? It’s tea with Jerry Mateparae or dinner with Tuheitia Paki.
The Department of Conversation has a fantastic network of back country huts, with a bit more investment they could easily be more accessible, innovative and elegant allowing a tourist experience of glamping.
Glamping allows for a truly eco-friendly holiday but without all the potentially unpleasant aspects possibly associated with such an idea. Then there are podpads and yurts. At another level, tourists will have emotional satisfaction in self-consciously limiting the damage they might cause by holidaying; some of them will also try to actually add value by going on a trip. In early 2012, the travelling website TripAvisor asked 700 travellers from the USA about their travelling behaviour. 24% of them claim to have considered a volun-tourism trip while 3% say they have already taken one. Only 16% were unfamiliar with the concept. Volun-tourism refers to a type of travelling which includes volunteering for a good cause. Depending on the individual’s endurance, volun-tourism can vary from low-skill work (eg cleaning wildlife areas) to more intensive tasks, such as providing medical aid. Yet basically, what all volun-tourism trips have in common is the traveller’s incentive to help or improve someone or something, while getting to know new places and people. While the concept is still a niche market, it seems like volun-tourism holds appeal for many. New Zealand can be that volunteer destination of the world. In a future world, if volunteer tourists could be exempt from any taxes if they put something back into the community. Tourists offer so much potential, it’s just a matter of harnessing that capital.
On the corporate front, tourism providers internationally take a responsible approach. Since 2011, hotel chain Travelodge has been giving its customers the option to make small digital donations each time they book a room. Guests are invited to round up the total cost of their booking to the nearest pound, with the extra money being shared between a number of good causes supported by the hotel chain.
Air New Zealand allows you to carbon offset your airline trip. Online travel insurance company WorldNomads.com founded The Footprints Network, as they believed “there is a moral obligation to give a little back to the communities in which we travel”. When someone purchases a policy with WorldNomads, they are asked to choose a project from a list to add a small donation. The Ritz-Carlton introduced the Give Back Getaways - a variety of holiday options that allow visitors to join the hotel’s employees in half-day volun-tourism projects which make a difference for the local community. The Give Back Getaways offer was launched in 2008 but has expanded significantly over the years.
Let’s think about tourism from a positive aspect, rather talking it down. Some say, ‘we can’t travel to New Zealand because of the distance and impact on the environment’. Well, Gregory Norris, who lectures at the Harvard School of Public Health, has created the carbon handprint. Rather than telling us what we are doing wrong, our carbon handprint tells us the sum of all the things we are doing right. The idea is that, if people realise how much difference they can make by adapting their behaviour only slightly, they might be encouraged to take some extra steps towards a greener life. Norris has a website, handprinter.org, which allows us to calculate our handprint and to pledge or confirm the ways in which we plan to enlarge it - all of which can be shared on Facebook. The implications for how we all travel in search of fun in the future are very obvious. It’s about a positive outlook rather talking down tourism.It seems likely that a strengthened eco-ethical conscience is here to stay. It might only be a matter of time before all transport providers, travel agencies and hotels will have made a strong environmental policy part of their standard package. An eco-claim will be a threshold value: universal throughout the industry. In the past, it might have seemed like a lot of extra effort to care about the environment while on holiday – a time which should be relaxing and carefree, when we can legitimately be a bit less responsible than we are during the rest of the year. But there can be little doubt that the long term impact of so much political agitation about the planet’s health – the Kyoto Dynamic - will be to a) pressurise tourists into being practically aware of whatever eco costs they are incurring and b) trigger every greater regulation in favour of cleaner services from the travel sector.
What the government needs to do is too end the inefficiency of not being green. This needs penalties for those not conforming to eco-friendly practises. For innovators, it means being green is cheaper tan not being green. In a futures world, where oil becomes scare– its means efficiency gains, sustainable architecture and green credentials.
The eco-mind is what school children are being educated about. Too them it is as natural as social media or the mobile phone. In the future, know one will brag about guzzling resources or wasting energy, so be warned. On a concluding not, being green is not a trend anymore, it’s something that is mainstream which goes beyond 100% Pure New Zealand. Its means a green qualmark scheme that is compulsory as a driver of change.
For further details of the Eco Paradise scenario visit www.tourism2050.com
Dr. Ian Yeoman
Victoria Business School