Plastic pollution is destroying our planet, so to help not be part of the problem, we recommend taking a reusable shopping bag, coffee cup, water bottle and straw with you on your travels and disposing of your waste thoughtfully and responsibly.

Tourism contributes 10 percent of global gross domestic product and accounts for one in 10 jobs worldwide, however this growth comes at a price. The tourism industry’s use of key resources, like energy and water, is generating vast amounts of solid waste, including marine plastic pollution, sewage, and greenhouse gas emissions plus causing significant loss of biodiversity.

The World Wildlife Fund reported in June 2018 that more than 200 million tourists visiting the Mediterranean every summer season generate almost 40 per cent increase in plastic entering the sea. With 80 percent of all tourism taking place in coastal areas, this destructive pattern is repeated elsewhere.

In April 2018, the Philippines temporarily closed the island of Boracay to clean up dumped sewage and upgrade its drainage systems. Thailand has closed Maya Bay, made famous by the 2000 film The Beach, in order to allow it to recover from pollution and other damage caused by tourists. And in 2017, Indonesia declared a “garbage emergency” in parts of Bali.

As part of its Clean Seas campaign, UN Environment is working with governments, businesses and citizens to reduce the use of disposable plastics. With increasing public awareness of the scale of plastic waste, some tourism industry players are tackling single-use plastics with Australia’s signature airline Qantas pledging to become totally zero waste by 2030.

In its Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report in 2017, the World Economic Forum noted that degradation of the natural environment was having a serious effect on the tourism sector: as natural capital depletes—because of overfishing, deforestation or water and air pollution—so tourism revenues decline.

Given the close relationship between natural resources and a very large segment of the tourism industry, then, a lack of progress on fostering sustainability, both from a general and sectoral point of view, will reduce tourism development opportunities,” it said.

Some tour operators are going the extra green mile, offering holidays designed to help tourists to rethink their use of plastic. For example, Responsible Tourism offers a “no single-use plastics” section on its website while others offer a plastic-free trip in the French Alps which includes a night in a refuge with guests asked to carry the rubbish away with them.

While such initiatives may offer inspiration to others in the industry, the scale of the plastic pollution problem demands a collaborative approach.

FCTG recognises the need is for industry associations to get behind these individual tour operator actions and introduce industry-wide standards. Within the FCTG supplier reach we are in the process of auditing our hotel product range to assess their waste and environmental standards.

Beyond industry initiatives, individuals can also play a role. Both FCTG and the World Travel and Tourism Council urge travellers to minimize their plastic footprint by doing simple things: bring your own water bottle and reusable straw, a reusable tote bag, refuse small bottles of toiletries in hotels and find out where you can recycle your plastic waste.

At FCTG, through our global footprint (we are a big chunk of the 1.3 billion international tourists per annum), we believe if each of our customers just does one of the five tips that we can create a real shift in the responsible travel space and build a brighter future where we work, live and travel!

Information sourced from UN Environment, “Paradise lost? Travel and tourism industry takes aim at plastic pollution but more action needed.” Feb 2019