By Aph Cruz
January 20, 2023
Boracay Island in Western Visayas alone logged over a million tourists within the first eight months of 2022 and the number continues to grow, according to the Malay Municipal Tourism Office. A partial report from the Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 7 also revealed that Cebu Province registered approximately 1.8 million tourists in the first nine months of 2022. In Bohol, tourist arrivals increased by 52 percent for the first half of last year compared to the same period in 2021, according to the Bohol Tourism Office.
The year 2022 has been fairly good for the travel industry, but can we say the same for the environment?
Tourism is fundamentally linked to climate change. According to a report made by the World Travel and Tourism Council in November 2021, carbon emissions of the travel and tourism industry range from 8 percent to 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (3.9 to 5.4 billion tons of CO2 emissions out of a total of 48.9b tCO2e in 2019). This makes the travel and tourism sector a significant contributor to climate change.
We cannot tell people to stop traveling, but we can make the travel industry more sustainable. The Philippine tourism industry’s pathway to recovery should be anchored on the principles of low-carbon tourism, the kind of travel that contributes the least impact on the planet.
In 2022, we at Las Islas Travel and Tours took our commitment to sustainable tourism to the next level by becoming the first travel company in the Philippines to become a full-fledged member of Sustainable Travel International, a mission-driven organization dedicated to protecting and conserving our planet’s most vulnerable destinations.
As a pioneer member from the Philippines, we are now part of a global movement of conscientious travelers and businesses that are passionate about making a difference and giving back to the places we depend on. We are working to transform tourism’s impact on nature and people by operating alongside local communities, engaging travelers and businesses in responsible practices, and strengthening destination management.
Through this work with Sustainable Travel International, we aim to safeguard nature, combat climate change, and empower communities to preserve the integrity of destinations in the Philippines and around the globe.
We have also launched a carbon footprint calculator on our website that could help travelers compute the carbon emissions generated by their various travel activities. The carbon footprint calculator helps travelers better understand their individual environmental impact by enabling them to calculate carbon emissions generated from taking flights, riding boats and other vehicles, and engaging in tourism activities. Powered by Sustainable Travel International, the Las Islas Travel and Tours carbon footprint calculator is free for all and can be easily accessed at www.lasislas.ph.
While there are many ways that you can minimize your carbon footprint while traveling, no matter how sustainable your travel habits are, certain carbon emissions are just simply still unavoidable. That’s where carbon offsetting comes in.
In simple terms, carbon offsetting allows you to compensate for the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions you produce by reducing emissions somewhere else. Calculating the carbon footprint of a particular activity is the first step toward offsetting emissions from traveling. Carbon offset credits purchased through the calculator support a vast portfolio of high-quality climate projects, including forest conservation, clean energy, and blue carbon projects around the world.
From introducing eco-pledges to banning single-use plastic on our tours, we at Las Islas Travel and Tours have always championed responsible tourism since our inception in 2014.
Last year, we took our commitment a notch higher by allowing our clients the opportunity to offset the carbon emissions generated by traveling.
An example would be the recent Iloilo City tour we organized and supervised for the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii in partnership with CCT 168 Travel and Tours. The 12-hour private city and culinary day tour onboard an air-conditioned bus generated about 0.17 metric tons of carbon emissions. We were able to offset the transportation’s carbon footprint by availing carbon credits from Sustainable Travel International, which supports third-party verified carbon offset projects that combat climate change.
Sustainable Travel International carefully vets all its carbon offset projects, supporting only those that are verified to deliver real and measurable emissions reductions.
In the latter part of 2022, we also took part in the Slow Food movement, which envisions a world where everyone can eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it, and good for the planet. In partnership with Slow Food Negros, we organized and facilitated a site validation tour of Antique Province as a possible Slow Food Community. Forming communities with good, clean, and fair food is a prerequisite to formulating a Slow Food Travel itinerary, which promotes the local gastronomic heritage and the conservation of its biodiversity. By fostering sustainability along the food value chain, Slow Food Travel generates a low-carbon footprint.
Restarting travel should be done responsibly and ethically at a time of anthropogenic climate change. Moving forward, the Philippine travel industry should ensure that it is headed for long-term success and progress by employing best practices in sustainability. This means rebuilding a Philippine tourism industry that values the health of the planet and its people.
By reducing the carbon footprint of the travel industry, tourism can be used as a force for good that could benefit generations to come. Sustainability should now be the new and better normal.
Aph Cruz is a Climate Reality Leader, writer, PR and marketing communications practitioner, cultural-social entrepreneur, and environmental advocate. In 2014, she founded Las Islas Travel Hub Unlimited, Inc. (Las Islas Travel and Tours), a Department of Tourism-accredited and International Property Office-registered travel company recognized for championing responsible and sustainable tourism. Las Islas Travel and Tours is the first tour-operator recipient of the 2018 ASEAN Sustainable Tourism Award in the Philippines and the first travel company in the Philippines to be a member of Sustainable Travel International, a mission-driven organization dedicated to protecting and conserving our planet’s most vulnerable destinations.
ABOUT ELEVENTH HOUR
This article was originally published on The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ weekly column for the Manila Bulletin called Eleventh Hour.
This column serves a digital space to discuss our organization’s work on supporting the country’s just transition into a clean, affordable, and self-sufficient energy system; advancing sustainable urban mobility to highlight the issues of equity and democracy; and raising public awareness about the need to phase out single-use plastics. It also serves as a platform for Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders to share your stories, promote your climate initiatives, and provide critical insights to issues that matter to climate action, environmental protection, and sustainable development.