Does SA hold the key to more affordable eco-tourism?

I have written before about the necessity for all stakeholders in the travel and tourism industries to prioritise sustainability in all areas of their offerings to visitors to our shores. I do believe that many have done this and airlines too have taken the lead with the development of more sustainable fuel options etc. It appears, however, with inflation running rampant on a global level and the energy crisis becoming more and more of an issue, as much as people want to choose more sustainable travel options, in most cases they simply can’t afford to! A recent Skift article I came across echoes this when it talks about many travellers’ desire for greener travel being thwarted by the travel and hospitality industries’ inability to provide affordable options.

Surveys are showing this to be so and the article mentions two recent ones – “A recent survey by ‘The Vacationer’ revealed that roughly 74 percent of American adult respondents intend to make greener travel decisions, but a far lower percentage are shelling out money to do so. Skift research also found in its December 2022 U.S. Travel Tracker survey that only 23 percent of travellers paid extra for a more sustainable travel option in the past 12 months”. The problem appears to be that people simply see more sustainable travel as being expensive and impractical right now as globally higher inflation is already making both leisure and business travel more difficult. The same article went on to say that The Vacationer survey showed that only about 5 percent listed sustainability and carbon footprints as the most critical considerations when trip planning and “Until sustainable travel options become more affordable and convenient, it is not likely to be the top priority for people when booking travel”.

What is the solution?

There is no quick fix in an economic environment that is proving to be challenging even for the well-to-do but I believe that, once one has made the international flight to their destination of choice the key to making a significant contribution to sustainability lies in choosing more sustainable options of modes of travel and choice of activities in that country. An example would be that in Europe or India the trains are always a great option and not more expensive than flying from point to point. It makes for a far better vacation too as one gets to see something of the countryside and get to know its people. Here in South Africa, we don’t have particularly effective public transport when travelling from town to town, but we have magnificent self-drive opportunities as I mentioned in my last article, like those along the magnificent Garden Route dotted with seaside towns and offering everything one could want to do along the way – and the longest wine route in the World – Route 62.

Game Parks offer sustainability and affordability

There can simply be no more sustainable vacation than that offered by any of our fabulous bush breaks to both our private and state-owned game parks. Not only do they offer a microcosm of perfect ecological balance and an opportunity for visitors to contribute to the preservation of our wildlife and the people that manage its conservation, but by international standards, it can be an affordable vacation too.  Places like the world-renowned Kruger National Park offer accommodation as well as self and guided drive experiences at rates that those with Dollars, Euros or Pounds can easily enjoy.

Sustainability is about choice

It may be that those who would like to opt for more sustainable travel are limited by economic circumstances and a lack of travel industry offerings, but we must remember the travel and tourism industry has admirably risen to include more sustainable options considering it is now just finding its feet again after being KO’d by the pandemic. No doubt we will keep trying too, as we see sustainability as a vital issue. In the interim, I can only say that there are more affordable ecotourism options – we just need to look for them. Does SA hold the key to more sustainable travel? Well, based on the choices you make, I believe that we can be, at the very least, a massive contributor!




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