The top two new challenges bearing down on tourism revival
Tourists in the form of trekkers have been slowly seeping into Nepal for the past month since it started visa on arrivals again. In total in October 2021 there were just over 23,000 “arriving” into Nepal. Compared to 134,000 in October 2019. If the past two years of on again off again travel have taught me, do not expect things to go smoothly as we move forward.
This week I was looking forward to writing about a new trek I’ve been on. A new day hike I have discovered. Or even about the ongoing temple reconstruction. Then some different news started to appear across the travel industry as a whole. This is the ongoing thing with COVID-19, social media, and the world today. Was it real? Or was it fake. In this case the news was real and it made sense. It’s something we all need to be prepared for.
I don’t like being the bearer of bad news. But this journey on getting back to travel keeps on putting up obstacles. We need to be prepared, and learn how to overcome them if we are ever going to get back to exploring our world again.
COVID-19 Vaccination expiries are becoming a thing
By this, I don’t mean the actual vaccine expiring. I mean one’s own vaccination date having a limit on it. 270 days to be precise for some countries already implementing this. That’s nine months since your vaccination or booster shot. That’s the time limit being put on tourists before being turned away from entering a country. Switzerland seems to have kick stared this “new” rule with a 360 day limit since your last vaccination (source: Forbes/ Independent). It’s now snowballing into other countries who are implementing shorter timeframes.
More and more countries will soon say “you need to have had a booster shot, recently”
Austria have come up with a 270 day rule. Croatia have done the same. While on the opposite side of the spectrum countries like Thailand and Nepal have said you need to have had a vaccination or booster shot at least 14 days before entering the countries.
It does make sense. Vaccinations do wear off and in doing so put people at risk again. The issue for tourism is that not too many countries are giving out booster shots yet. If you had your second shot of vaccine in March this year then Switzerland, Austria, and Croatia are not letting you in as if you were fully vaccinated if you fly there in December. With no doubt, more countries are going to follow this protocol. We need to be ready.
Solutions to vaccination expiry dates
Keep track of when you had your last vaccination or booster shot! You just don’t want the hassle of being stuck in another country if you arrive thinking you are “vaccinated” when in fact, it’s expired. Or, you are in the country on holiday, it expires, and your own home country forces you into a mandatory quarantine. Yes, depending on where you are from, this could get complicated fast. So, count your days!
It’s highly likely that countries with these expiry dates will still let you in. But you will certainly have to show proof of original vaccination, plus get a PCR negative test, plus possibly a quarantine of some kind. This is all ahead of us and I’m sure many countries will have their own differing regulations. So it’s now doubly important to do a little research before you “just head off”.
The ultimate solution in all this is for more vaccinations or booster shots to be made available. That’s the sound of money to the pharmaceutical companies profiting from all this but also the reality. Keep in mind, some countries don’t even have enough first dose vaccines let alone booster shots. Until vaccines and booster shots are available like flu shots in pharmacies around the world, we will be struggling with this one.
Environmental toll from travel
Here’s the next big thing that’s about to hit travel. As you may have read, the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. And things are not going so well. Politicians are blaming everyone but themselves while all agreeing we are at the midnight hour for making changes. Some countries are cutting back on carbon emissions while other countries like India are quite happy to burn coal, refuse, and increase pollutants touting they shouldn’t be punished for what other countries created. India has announced it won’t be carbon neutral until… 2070! It means the rest of the world has to do more to make up for this and other countries. China are opening new coal plants left right and center. Meanwhile in the UK people are being told to switch over from gas to heat pumps, and that no more new petrol vehicles will be made by 2030. It’s a vicious circle.
One victim which is currently out for the count is tourism. Having been knocked out by the pandemic, there’s a growing number of people saying there’s no longer a place in the world for casual travel. Some have even suggested we start using a points based Green Travel Card which monitors how much our carbon footprint is. If we over step it, we have to pay a higher toll for flying anywhere.
The above is likely to work out way many things do these days. If you are wealthy, you can afford to pay the travel fines from going over your allotted carbon quoted points. If you are not so wealthy, you might just about struggle with paying off your carbon points on your yearly work commute let along think of going on holiday. This type of travel rationing system is already being touted by the UK actress Joanna Lumley (source: The Herald), who ironically has just finished a travel documentary that involved traveling around the UK as part of raising environmental awareness.
Is the travel industry going to be blamed for ruining the environment?
This is a conundrum isn’t it? Responsible travel is certainly important. We are all switching to electric vehicles. Using less carbon based fuels. Doing our bit for recycling etc. But how much of this is helping? Recently many European nations discovered most of their recycling has been sent off to Asia for burning. The UK uses gas to create most of its electricity. There’s a surefire mentality of profit before the environment among big business. Meanwhile it’s the everyday person who’s sacrificing the most.
It all seems quite familiar. There’s plenty that can be done, but it needs political will. Big businesses who get away without paying the taxes everyone else does is one step in the right direction. A wealth tax? Is it even possible? Has anyone checked to see if we have enough lithium and rare earth materials for all these renewable energy sources governments are now touting?
The answers need to be a lot clearer than what we’ve experienced through COVID-19.
In the meantime, be prepared for more carbon taxes on flights, more environmental taxes on visa fees and more blame on the tourist. In reality, it seems many of these countries blaming tourists could be doing a lot more to improve their own environmental issues before taking the blame out on travel.
The future is positive, not carbon negative!
We must find solutions to these problems. In fact, many of these solutions exist today. Vaccinations for example. Some math on their expiration dates and being “real” about being prepared for boosters is just the reality of adapting to a new type of travel. Wind farms are growing, our environmental awareness is growing, our knowledge and discoveries of new solutions is improving.
In Nepal the burning of plastic waste is a huge issue. So to is the lack of education on dumping rubbish. You’ll see it everywhere. Locals dumping plastic bottles out windows, on trekking trails garbage is strewn out the back of tea houses, big resorts are encroaching on lakes, forests and mountain towns.
Instead of taking it all on the chin, let your travel wallet do the walking and talking. Avoid staying in big resorts that encroach on forests or mountain areas. Support local people. Then share your knowledge with them about why throwing rubbish on the street is bad. Tell them you won’t stay in a place that does this, pack your bags and watch people take action – these things work! I’ve seen them work. Simple things like walking instead of taking taxis or city bus tours. It’s one of the reasons I wrote Kathmandu Valley Heritage Walks. Every walk is walkable! Again, it does sink in with locals who through no fault of their own have not had an education on the environment. Have any of us for that matter? However many of us have access to this information and learned from it. Telling your hotel that you won’t take a mini-van tour around a city, or private car tour because you don’t like to pollute the environment and want a walking tour instead will work.
Telling people you want a walking tour instead of a bus tour won’t change things over night, but in year or so of people saying these thing, you can be sure some enterprising tour company will start more walking tours.
One step at a time, one book at a time, making a difference
My first edition paperback books were all printed on recycled paper. During the pandemic I upped that even further. Now, for every guidebook sold I donate to planting trees. For every book sold, it’s about 10 trees planted – the exact number changes due to costs depending on the location and type of tree planted. Believe it or not, doing this was far more complicated than it should be. Tree planting is not as it seems, but more on that soon.
There are also so many environmental terms these days. Carbon Neutral means to bring your carbon waste or carbon footprint to net zero or doing no more damage (shouldn’t we be there already? Apparently we are not). Climate Positive or Carbon Positive is going beyond carbon Neutral and actually proactively creating more natural resources to create a better environment. This is what I am doing with my books.
So yes, travel can make a difference. In March next year I’ll be giving an update on the tree planting initiative after a year of the project starting. It’s an initiative that I hope other publishers and writers will follow.
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