Ep. 220 — The Environmental Crisis Impacting the Travel Industry

Today we are diving deep into a pressing issue that is impacting the travel industry in a profound way: the environmental crisis. And joining us today is the insightful Stuart McDonald, founder of one of Southeast Asia’s most trusted travel resources.

In this episode, Stuart delves into the often-overlooked complexities surrounding sustainability in the travel industry, particularly with tour companies. He highlights how small and multi-day tour businesses, in their pursuit to offer jam-packed itineraries, often neglect the importance of reducing emissions. Despite the availability of sustainable alternatives like trains, many companies resort to domestic flights, raising concerns about their commitment to preserving the environment.

But it’s not just the environment that Stuart questions. He challenges the industry as a whole to consider the impact of tourism on local communities, reminding us that these communities are not homogeneous and have diverse opinions about tourists. Stuart argues that tourism operators need to be transparent about how local people benefit from their presence and communicate this to their guests, rather than engaging in “greenwashing” tactics.

We also explore the overlooked concept of economic leakage and its consequences for local economies. Stuart brings attention to how much of the money generated by tourism actually stays within the destination and benefits the community, shining a light on the challenges that smaller businesses face compared to big tour companies.

But this episode isn’t just about highlighting the problems. Stuart offers practical solutions and calls for a shift in how business is conducted in the travel industry. He advocates for prioritizing sustainability as a core value and emphasizes the importance of communicating to customers about a company’s practices and impact.

About Stuart

Stuart McDonald is a passionate advocate for sustainable and responsible travel, with a focus on supporting local communities. He believes that one crucial aspect of this is ensuring that the money spent by travelers stays within the community it is visiting. Stuart points out that larger international operators often have their own Destination Management Companies (DMCs) and control the entire supply chain, resulting in a significant amount of money being taken out of the local economy. He finds this issue to be problematic and encourages travelers to stay at locally-owned accommodations, like Joe’s Guest House, in order to maximize their support for the local community.