Covid crisis offers chance to make tourism ‘greener’

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Leave only footprints ... should tourism get greener? PIC: WWF

The global pandemic has turned the tourism industry in its head and led to a lot of soul searching about what the best way forward should be for the industry.

In New Zealand, the country’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, is urging the Government to take advantage of the pause in international tourism to transform the sector to one with a substantially smaller environmental footprint.

Some of his suggestions might well offer food for thought for Australia’s decisions makers.

Commissioner Upton suggests that the discontinuity created by the pandemic offers an opportunity to address some of the long-standing environmental and social issues associated with the tourism industry.

Releasing the report, Not 100% – but four steps closer to sustainable tourism, Commissioner Upton suggests “there is broad support for the idea that protecting tourism livelihoods in the short term should not morph into a slow but inexorable return to the status quo in the long term.”

Among the report’s proposals were to strengthen the existing standard for self-contained freedom camping, and improve oversight of the certifying process. It also floated the idea of requiring vehicle rental agencies to play a greater role in collecting freedom camping infringement fees and fines.

Certainly, there is also a feeling among many Australian travellers that overseas tourists often flout the rules and then hop on a plane to leave the country before paying any fines.

The report also suggested the introduction of a departure tax that reflects the environmental cost of flying internationally from New Zealand; tightening up rules around commercial activity on conservation lands and waters; and making any future central government funding for tourism infrastructure conditional on environmental criteria.

Key to the report is that tourists – and the tourism businesses that serve them – should to pay for the cost of the environmental services they use.

Commenting on this, Commissioner Upton noted ‘tourism’s growth has been built on special attention and subsidies for decades’.

“This has been followed by subsidies to cope with the pressures of that growth,” he said. “It is time to consider measures that ask the industry and tourists to meet some of these costs and moderate demand for activities that deliver negative environmental outcomes.”

New Zealand’s Tourism Industry chief, Chris Roberts, said the report had identified some long-standing systemic issues and proposed some bold solutions that wouldn’t be universally endorsed but deserved to be debated.

  • How would you like to see the tourism industry change in Australia once overseas travellers are allowed back? Comment below.
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2 Responses to Covid crisis offers chance to make tourism ‘greener’

  1. Re overseas tourists not paying fines, the solution is simple. When a fine is issued to an overseas tourist, the information is sent to border control & the tourist does not leave until the fine is paid. With computers & modern technology it just the press of a button. It would not have to happen too many times before word got around & all would play by the same set of rules we Aussies have to abide by.

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