Bringing Environmental Consciousness Along
By Athena Kung, third year Geography student
Going on holiday is always fun; a time to neglect responsibilities, let loose and relax for a few days. However, in light of increased awareness surrounding environmental degradation and conservation, maybe it’s time we stop leaving everything behind when we go on our next adventure and keep our environmental consciousness with us. There’s always so much we can do for the environment, but it becomes so overwhelming trying to pinpoint where to start. Maybe raising awareness and talking about the topic is a good way to begin.
Given the rise of affordable transportation and the normalisation of tourism so that it is no longer exclusive to the wealthy, the global tourism industry has been growing exponentially. Taking Venice as an example, the Italian National Institute of Statistics estimated 2017 saw a 5.3% increase in tourist numbers, equalling 123 million annual visitors. With annual visitor numbers expected to increase, what are the associated impacts?
To begin with, the local Venetian population is decreasing, as the increased cost of living, and decrease in standards of living in the city has forced locals to relocate to other nearby cities. The including of Venice in cruise ships’ itineraries also contributes to air pollution – pollutants linger in the air even after the cruise ship has departed, further pushing locals to leave Venice.
But is the city actually able to cope with the demands of the tourism industry? Last summer, my sister and I spent a few days in Venice, exploring its picturesque islands. There was so much to see – colourful buildings, churches, amazing sunsets – but at times, we also found ourselves to be in any other city, with the domination of large corporate brands replacing local businesses. There was also a lot of people around us, regardless of the time of day.
While journeying along its famous canals, we also saw remnants of the previous floods in Venice: some buildings were two shades of the same colour, while others had its entrances boxed up, and the whole ground floor of the building dark and vacant, with signs of life only on the higher floors. It was bittersweet to see. A place so beautiful and unique, which we were so grateful to finally be able to visit and explore, but simultaneously in a state of degradation, heightened by tourism and its associated demands.
We spent the rest of our canal ride reflecting on the implications of the tourist industry, and what we could do to make the remainder of our trip in Venice a bit more sustainable. It’s no surprise Venice’s status as ‘a-place-to-visit-before-it-sinks’ serves to attract visitor numbers, but simultaneously worsens the city’s issues, by worsening the environmental degradation, and forcing locals out of business.
So, is Venice a place that will cease to exist in the future due to rising sea levels, or is it instead a place that is being damaged by the flood of tourism? Perhaps it’s time to bring our environmental consciousness along when on holiday, especially if visiting Venice, in an attempt to make our stay just a little bit more sustainable.
Given Venice’s reputation for being so romantic and picturesque and, recently, a place to visit before it sinks, it’s no wonder the tourism industry in the city is thriving. But this increase comes at a cost. It’s imperative we keep in mind the implications of our actions, even while on holiday. There’s no way around it – who doesn’t want to visit Venice before it sinks? But hopefully this article kick-starts more awareness around the topic of our impact on holiday destinations and its environment.
So on my next holiday, a few things I’ll be doing to be more sustainable are:
- Travelling to attractions by foot or public transport as much as possible (fewer Ubers!);
- Making an effort to eat at local restaurants;
- Only buying from brands I’ve never seen at home.