The vaccines are en route and though we’re stuck in Groundhog Day 2021, plans are afoot for the bucket list.  Come 2022, those who can, will be ready to fly out of here. Screw the staycation, go on an outdoor adventure, make heart shapes at sunset and post photos alongside inspirational Rumi quotes. 

‘Generation experience’, who have had anything but in the last year, stayed home with granny in mind, now it’s time to break free. They can save the planet by drinking nut milk and posting glamorous hiking photos instead.

In the past decade, mass tourism has become an unstoppable beast. Thanks to an unholy union of cheap flights, more disposable income, social media influencers and technology the explorer became a box ticker. 

Alpine villages and national parks were invaded by instagrammers, 8000er mountains were climbed by amateurs, whose dead bodies littered their death zone, while Justin Bieber inadvertently caused the closure of the Fjadrargljufur Canyon in Iceland after shooting a video there and attracting a million trampling ‘Beliebers’. (Justin Bieber fans).

Last year there were over 500 million low cost airline seats in Europe, while Airbnb reported triple digit growth in cities in Europe, with popular short break destinations like Barcelona or Amsterdam hosting 20 people per inhabitant (Fodors Travel). Meanwhile the cruise industry grew to €140bn, with 30 million people setting sail around the world, many using toxic fuel- as per German watchdog Nabu. 

A study published in Nature Climate Change in 2018 suggested tourism accounted for 8percent of greenhouse gas emissions.  

2020 was set to be a bumper year, then it became a passage from the Bible called; ‘Enough’. “You think you can just go somewhere to take photos of yourselves, eat gelato and ruin city streets and fragile ecosystems? Think again.” And so people stayed put.

Obviously the loss of revenue and livelihoods is colossal. From the airline pilot who unknowingly flew his last flight in a plane that will never fly again, to the restaurant owner in Greece whose tables were empty to the Sherpa in Nepal without clients and countless more. The latest UN World Tourism barometer suggests international tourist arrivals fell by 72percent between January and October 2020 over the same period last year. The repercussions are many fold. In Ireland alone, 160,000 people lost their jobs in the tourism sector, while European ski resorts face a winter of discontent.

This is sad, but seeing Venice breathe, Mt Everest void of queues and cruise liners being beached at Aliaga shipyard in Turkey, mid-demolition and ready to be sold for scrap, was nice.

Obviously there’s  a delicate balance between people’s lives and the tourism industry that supports them, but greed got in the way.

From local councils and tourist boards aggressively targeting mass tourists to fill their towns and beauty spots to mega cruisers, disregarding the oceans they sail in and the ports they dock in.

Even in Ireland we weren’t spared, as tourism reached peak greed. Overpriced pints and hotels replacing landmarks in Dublin anyone?

The instagram travel bloggers, who happily commodify nature for their own purposes were the biggest offenders. “Hi, here’s an unrealistic photo of me in brand new outdoor wear. Come join me on the coral reefs or remote peeks to support my plight of getting free stuff.” Oh and by the way- “here’s a link to my hiking wear.”

The generation trying to save the planet is contributing to it’s destruction for the sake of a selfie.

As 2021 beckons, the instagrammers who eat soy proteins will be booking trips to Kilimanjaro, telling everyone to come.My ideal world will be filled with people who do their own thing and don’t follow trends.

I dream of less mega cruises, less bus loads, less conveyor belt trips, less ‘organised’ adventure trips and fewer people buying into the influencer culture. 

Do we need Lewis Hamilton driving an electric car rally called Extreme E in the rainforest and Saudi Arabian desert to ‘draw attention to climate issues,’? Will his fans not want to go there to support him? 

Everyone is looking forward to a holiday in 2021, free of masks, social distancing and hand sanitiser. It will be wonderful, but perhaps people can keep local communities, environment and wildlife in mind. A little due diligence can help. The world is in a precarious state as we are catapulting our way to a climate calamity. Less snow in the Alps, less corals, more storms, more heatwaves, more forest fires, things are bad enough without egging it all on. 

People miss traveling and seeing the world so much, but in a bid to embrace it, the trick is not to love it to death.

 

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