Travelling is a beautiful process that provides immense of opportunities to meet new people, learn new things and experience a wide range of cultures. Based on the estimation provided by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), more than 1.2 billion international visits were recorded in 2016, reaching a seventh consecutive year of above-average growth after the 2009 Financial Crisis. Global spending on trips has supported a tourism industry that contributes more GDP than that of banking, mining, agriculture, and automotive manufacturing. For many island countries and developing states, tourism is one of the major economic pillars. While the economic contribution of tourism is well recognized, the side effect of our travels and their impact on the environment and climate change remains less quantified and acknowledged. Especially, a popular mindset exists believing that tourism is a “smoke-free industry” and pursuing tourist number and consumption is determined as a high priority for many countries. However, the COVID-19 pandemic halted all travel activities in 2019 for almost 3 years. That was the worst situation travel industry faced around the globe.
Classical thoughts claim that tourism is considered a smokeless industry. However, the activities related to this industry is not that much clean as this has been claimed.
In a study published in May, 2018 in the journal Nature Climate Change, mentions that the carbon footprint (CF) of global travel, addressing emissions associated with 6 greenhouse gases (GHG) as a result of providing accommodation, dining, transportation, recreational activities, and souvenirs to tourists among 160 countries from 2009 to 2013. Our scope includes direct emissions produced by tourism firms, such as hotels, airplanes, or theme parks, and the indirect emissions associated with the upstream suppliers that provide inputs to tourism industries. An example of indirect emissions can be GHG produced as a result of the Boeing Company manufacturing a 787 aircraft. In order to estimate the global tourism CF, visitor spending reported by the national Tourism Satellite Account and UNWTO were sourced to represent the scale of global tourism consumption, which was then combined with the EORA multi-region input-output model to convert tourist spending into emissions based on the production structure of individual countries.
The findings indicated that between 2009 and 2013, tourism’s global carbon footprint has increased from 3.9 to 4.5 gigatons CO2e, accounting for about 8% of global GHG emissions. This corresponds to an increase in the carbon footprint of global tourism by 3.3% annually or 14% over the period. Transport, shopping, and food are significant contributors, especially the use of aviation services. The top five countries that produce the largest tourism emissions due to their residents engaging in both domestic and international travel are United States, China, Germany, India, and Mexico. From a per capita basis, residents in Mauritius, New Zealand, Germany, and Maldives bear the highest amount of tourism emissions as a result of large travel activities in their country with a relatively small population. For many island destinations such as Cyprus, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Maldives, more than 70% of the national tourism emissions are contributed by international tourists.
Tourism and traveling actions are related to transportation devices. Airplanes, trains, buses, cars, cable cars, ships – are the travelling devices and they consume as fuel. Although electricity and hydrogen powered airplanes and ships have been made for trials. Commercial productions are still in the wait. It may take some more time for such vehicles to come out at mass production. However, trains powered by battery and hydrogen fuel cell have been brought into service in some markets. The cables car systems, buses and cars run by batteries have been widely used these days.
Thus, tourism industry should consider on minimizing their carbon foot prints. That means, the industry may be mandated for maximum use of renewable energy powered vehicles, machines and other equipment including cooking, heating and cooling systems. The governments and global climate related agencies should recommend and extend supports to the industry by technical and financial assistance.
For Nepal, tourism is one of large industries of Nepal and it is largest source of foreign exchange and revenue. Possessing eight of the ten highest mountains in the world, Nepal is a hot spot destination for mountaineers, rock climbers and people seeking adventure. The Hindu and Buddhist heritage of Nepal and its cool weather are also strong attractions.
Besides abundant cultural heritage, there are opportunities for adventure activities such as mountaineering, trekking, rafting, bungee jumping, canoeing and paragliding that can attract tourists to Nepal making it a destination for those who want to indulge themselves in adventure sports.
According to the statistics of 2017, most of the tourists comes to Nepal for observing the pilgrimage sites and heritages sites of the country i.e. 70.3%, then 34.5% visit for pleasure, 13.1% of them visit Nepal for mountaineering and trekking and remaining 18.0% of the tourists arrive for official activities, conferences, business etc.
Although natural disasters and health pandemic hit the industry, it is now improving. That means the country is getting more tourists. In 2023, the government has set a target of attracting one million or more tourists.
As industries and economic activities in Nepal is in a bid to regain the previous status and to get developed sooner, the tourism industry may not be in a position to inject a huge amount of fund to purchase electric buses and cars to replace the smoke belching vehicles. Likewise, they need to convert heating, cooling and cooking systems, replace energy saving lighting and other systems to utilize renewable energy and also to reduce the cost of operations, they will require huge fund. This is also to note that cable car systems developed for foreign and domestic tourists are successful in providing services and making profits.
Moreover, tourism industry to shift into electric or any smokeless systems, Nepal Government and global climate agencies have to consider on providing technical and financial assistance to the industry. Emphasis should be given to electric buses at their private ownership or service to be provided by service providing companies who hold a number of electric buses and arrangement for relevant services including charging systems for long routes mainly. Likewise, luxurious quality electric cars should be made available at ‘hire’ services. It also to be recommended is that electric bicycles may be one more highly efficient luxury for a large number of tourists visiting Nepal. Likewise, the tourism industry in Nepal should be encouraged to utilize Solar PV, Solar Thermal, biogas, biomass energy technologies to replace traditions fuel – fossil fuel, coal or firewood. These actions will certainly support Nepal in global climate change effect reduction activities. However, the stakeholders of the industry, government institutions, experts and private sector service providers and suppliers should organize dialogues for the appropriate use of renewable energy technologies.