For the past two decades three major topics have kept coming back in China: pollution, fast growing economy and fast paced Chinese tourism growth. What if there was a solution to accommodate the three topics into something that would benefit Chinese and foreign tourists alike?
The concept of sustainable tourism
Sustainable tourism is all about travelling and visiting a place in a context of tourism and trying to make a positive impact on the environment, the economy and the society of the place. Undoubtedly, tourism is a good thing for the economy of a country because it brings money to it, but it has down sides like the pollution. Oh yes, when you go visiting a place, you travel. This means moving from one place to another with the modern means of transportation:
Sad news: they all pollute and here we are, a nice and warm greenhouse effect with perks like decomposition of the ozone layer protecting us, climat change and so on…
The sustainable tourism is a sustainable model for the tourism industry on the long run.
It’s all about changing consuming habits to make them less dangerous to the environment and have a lasting viable model. Because pollution is anything but a sign of a lasting and viable tourism industry model:
Too much pollution destroys the places tourists may have otherwise enjoyed and ultimately reduces the variety of tourism sites, even transforming some into Disneyland-like Park whereas they were once wonderful and unique tourism hotspot.
So why try sustainable tourism in China?
Sustainable tourism would drastically reduce pollution and would be the next trend to keep an eye on.
With this title you may expect below something like, yes, sustainable transport means less polluting transportation means like dropping tourist at their spots and then have them walk longer, ride bikes longer. Sure, that’s the idea wherever you go, when you discuss sustainable tourism and going to China is in fact no different.
Well, the entire point of this article is not about the short term consequence of sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism has to be something to give a lasting impact to tourist visiting the sustainable tourism approach.
How can this impact be made?
Sustainable tourism can help raise awareness about a multitude of factors Chinese would have ignored in the past. Why simple things matter to preserve environment, why some energies have to be abandoned and that money (or a clap of the fingers) cannot neither buy clean air nor a clean environment.
Sustainable tourism would:
Reduce the number of Disney-land like tourism spots in favour of natural and truly marvellous places.
It has a lot of possible actions: first of all, travellers have to be aware of its existence. After that, some simple guidelines that were made to present the actions they have to do to pollute less have to be given to these tourists. For example, about the sustainable mobility, trying to use means of transport that are not polluting: when we have to travel on a long distance we can’t avoid the plane but once arrived we can use bike, public transport or even our feet. There is also a need toanticipate and respect local cultures, expectations and assumptions as well as their environment and the places that need to be preserved the most. One of the most important guideline is to be informed of the culture, politics and economy in order to avoid mistakes that could be made. Travelling is business: according to that we have to support the integrity of local cultures by privileging businesses, which conserve cultural heritage and traditional values, and local economies by purchasing local goods and participating on the small businesses, because they don’t use big machines that pollute.
When people travel, they usually are on holidays and are more relaxed. Sustainable development is all about simple things and teaching healthy and eco-friendly habits to improve the quality of the overall tourism experience. In the end, people may remember what they saw and learned and apply it in their everyday life.
How could it benefit to China in the future?
China is one of the most polluted countries of the planet. It’s the second most polluted country, after the United States. This pollution is due to an overexploitation of the natural resources and the many industries that have help China on its economy. This has catastrophic consequences on health and on the environment. China also has a lot of tourists: it became in 2005 the 5th destination of international tourism. As it’s been said before, tourism pollutes countries. China needs to slow down the bad impacts it has on environment and tries since the 1980s to protect its environment.
If China wants to reduce its pollution, it will have to set up sustainable tourism.Furthermore, tourism is money, so China, like every other countries, tries to make efforts to attract tourism: in order to attract more people, it sets up incredible things and tries and makes every place comfortable for the tourists, like putting lights everywhere so that tourists can visit the country at night, or building huge things and high technology novelty just to impress them.
Sustainable tourism would improve two things:
- First, decrease littering coming from the tourists themselves
- Second, change the “China is too polluted to visit” cliché that hinder its inbound and domestic tourism
The cities in China are so polluted that people have to wear masks.
China will gain a lot of things by setting up this sustainable tourism: less pollution, an aware population that will try to watch their actions even on regular times and more tourism on some polluted places. In fact, this sustainable action can also benefit to the Chinese people itself and also to the economy because of the growth of tourism in some places.
How can it be set up?
Some people are actually into sustainable development, and a lot of their actions everyday are to protect the environment. These people are perfect candidates for the sustainable tourism. Furthermore, in the developed countries people are surrounded by advices on how to pollute less. We can add on all this awareness the sustainable tourism.
A simple thing is just to put signs or lines on touristic guides to aware people that a particular zone requires attention and has to be protected. In fact, all touristic guides should have some sentences on the first page of the book to invite tourists to pollute less. People don’t like pollution and wastes, so just reminding them that some actions can lead in the future to a bad landscape can help.
Non-governmental organizations are active in advocating sustainable tourism as sustainable development. Some simply do research but others spread their ideas and solutions. Summits about the sustainable development that regularly take place in the biggest cities in the world always seek for new ideas and begin to think about sustainable tourism. So it will become more known because more showed and more developed.
What about tourism agencies then?
China is the place where sustainable tourism has the most potential. Indeed, with pollution becoming a major concern in China, not only people will want to have a more environment friendly activities but the government as well. Government backed tourism is probably the best thing for tourism agencies wanting to attract more Chinese.
Sustainable tourism in China can still be considered as a niche market compared to other more famous segments like attracting more high-end tourists. Now is the time to enter the market and act as one of the pioneer. Besides, a well-developed sustainable tourism offer would have China enter into a virtuous circle of raised awareness that would make China more appealing to tourists that are at best undecided about travelling in China.
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