Protecting and restoring nature, by maintaining healthy, functioning ecosystems and safeguarding biodiversity, should now be a priority for all governments, businesses, and society. Without nature, we simply do not have the natural resources or services that ensure our survival. Knowing what to do, where to start and how to identify our dependencies and impacts on nature need not be a challenge.
ANIMONDIAL has been working with the leading agencies of the Travel & Tourism industry to ensure its sectors and businesses have the information, guidance and tools necessary to scope, assess and reduce their nature-related risks, dependencies and impacts. This has produced a universal approach, called “Nature Positive Tourism”, that encourages businesses to go beyond sustainability and begin to compensate for unavoidable impacts by building back biodiversity.
This year, ANIMONDIAL will focus on raising greater awareness of Nature Positive Tourism: what it is and how businesses can embrace it. A Travel and Tourism Overview has been produced with the global coalition Business for Nature and a further report, Nature Positive Travel & Tourism in Action, will soon be published by the Nature Positive Tourism Partnership. These both support business action and share practical examples of how businesses are benefiting from this approach.
EXODUS Adventure Travels, a 50-year-old UK-based tour operator, is one such business that has integrated the Nature Positive Tourism approach into its operations. Keen to know more, I caught up with Rochelle Turner, Head of Sustainability at EXODUS, to find out how they are getting on.
“It’s been fundamental to our trips that we tread lightly and respect the natural and cultural environment. In the last few years, we’ve taken to ensuring that we’ve got more documented proof of these actions and that we challenge any practices that don’t align with our vision of being a nature positive business.”
Rochelle explains that the IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES, 2019) was the starting point for their plan. It explained the five key drivers of biodiversity loss and helped them identify actions to minimise or avoid unsustainable activities and work towards restoring nature. EXODUS adopted a “simple plan of remove, reduce and restore”, a process aligned with Nature Positive Tourism Roadmap presented in the World Travel & Tourism Council report (WTTC, 2022).
“Through our plan, we identified the things we need to remove entirely (i.e. plastics, any negative wildlife interactions, other waste) and take action to reduce our negative impacts (i.e. reducing our carbon emissions) and where we had an opportunity to bring about positive change and restore nature (investing in rewilding and citizen science activities). All these actions form the basis of our Nature Positive Plan upon which we set goals to 2023. I’ve now been updating this with new actions across the next 3-5 years.”
It is encouraging to see businesses proactively adopt Nature Positive Tourism and demonstrate how it can be applied practically, although this is not without its challenges.
“One of the main challenges as a tour operator is trying to enact change where we don’t have direct control. We can set the policies and minimum standards, but at times and in certain places, it is difficult for them to be reached,” explained Rochelle. “Just a small example – we have a goal to not provide any single use water bottles to our guests and only ever use refillable bottles with clean, purified water. We’re at 94% which is great, but we want 100%. In certain parts of the world and particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic, we are still searching for solutions.”
ANIMONDIAL received similar feedback from a peer review consultation last year – noting the challenges of Nature Positive Tourism integration through the supply and value chains. This will be another area of focus for ANIMONDIAL this year as we continue to work with the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, the WTTC and the World Tourism Organisation to drive industry-level solutions. However, these potential obstacles shouldn’t stop more Travel & Tourism businesses committing to the Nature Positive Tourism approach and contributing to efforts to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
Rochelle emphasises the need for businesses to keep their nature positive action plans simple.
“It helps to communicate the message internally and embed the required actions within people’s roles. It also helps provide that all-important evidence and proof that what we say about our trips and how we operate is real and based on a thorough appreciation for what truly brings positive change for nature.”
Travel & Tourism businesses can certainly learn from each other and ANIMONDIAL will be encouraging and facilitating this throughout 2024, noting the need to act now for nature. This will include a series of webinars and practical guidance, delivered through the Nature Positive Tourism Partnership, and various other initiatives to support business and encourage a joined-up approach to protecting nature.
Asked about the priorities for EXODUS this year, Rochelle shared the need to review their Nature Positive Plan, combine their climate change mitigation commitments, and ensure their collective goals align with the Global Goals for Nature.
Whatever your Nature Positive Tourism goals are for the coming year, ANIMONDIAL can help guide you through them. Contact us or book in a call to find out how.
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