According to ABTA’s 2019 Travel Trends Report, some 45% of holidaymakers believe that the sustainability credentials of their travel provider are important when booking a trip.
The impact of travel on the environment is a key consideration for more and more of us, as concern grows over climate change and pollution, and campaigners like Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion dominate the headlines. There are plenty of things you can do to reduce your negative impact on the environment, from cutting down on flights to participating in a beach clean-up or a conservation programme during your holiday.
But what about choosing your holiday in the first place? In this article we’ve collected together some of our favourite touring destinations that are doing their bit for the planet, from championing the use of renewable energy to protecting fragile ecosystems...
Iceland’s popularity as a holiday destination has grown exponentially over the past few years, with travellers seduced by the country’s otherworldly landscapes, bizarre geological phenomena and Viking-inspired culture. The forces that fuel Iceland’s geysers and hot springs are also responsible for the majority of the country’s power supply, with some 66% of Iceland’s energy supplied by geothermal sources. The Icelandic government has also taken strong measures to enforce sustainable fishing practices and combat ocean pollution, and most of the country remains pristine and unspoilt.
New Zealand is another country aiming to make more use of its ample geothermal resources, and around 40% of the country’s energy comes from renewable sources. The government has set an ambitious target for New Zealand to reach net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, and for 100% of the country’s electricity to come from renewables by 2035. These strong eco credentials are fitting for a destination renowned for its natural beauty, diverse ecosystems and relaxed pace of life.
Costa Rica was the first country in the world to commit to becoming fully carbon neutral, and currently plans to hit net zero emissions by 2050. Around a quarter of the country’s total landmass is protected in the form of national parks and biological reserves, and its jungles and mangroves are home to an incredible 5% of the world’s total biodiversity, with everything from vivid green tree frogs to slumbering sloths. Costa Rica has also just been awarded the UN’s 2019 Champions of the Earth award for its role in the protection of nature and its commitment to combatting climate change.
Situated 800 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, these rugged volcanic islands are a great choice for an eco-conscious escape. The Azores have been harnessing renewable energy since long before it was fashionable, with a mix of hydropower, wind, geothermal and biomass. The authorities here take conservation seriously, and holidays to the Azores focus on the archipelago’s natural riches, both on land and in the sea. Top activities include whale watching, birding and hiking amongst the stunning natural scenery.
Slovenia is quite literally one of the greenest countries on the planet, with around 60% of its territory covered in forest, and over half of the country is protected. Ljubljana was named European Green Capital in 2016, thanks to its amazing transformation from a city dominated by cars to one where public transport, pedestrians and cyclists take precedence. The entirety of the historic centre is pedestrianised, and the city has committed to achieving ‘zero waste’, with the highest levels of recycling on the continent. Outside of the capital you can explore one of the most pristine and unspoilt countries in Europe, especially up in the Julian Alps where the air is clean and the turquoise streams are remarkably clear.
Finland is another wonderfully wild and unspoilt destination, with 40 national parks, 188,000 lakes and more than half of the country cloaked with forest. Almost half of Finland’s electricity comes from renewable sources, and the country aims to be carbon neutral by 2035. Tourism here is focused on the natural environment, from bear watching trips and husky sledding to summer hikes in the beautiful Lakeland region. Finland’s charming capital, Helsinki, has announced ambitious plans to be entirely car-free by 2025, and is already one of Europe’s most cycle-friendly cities.