How a tour operator can work with its suppliers to reduce plastic

A tour operators is an intermediary between tourists and local tourism service providers and its purpose is to group a wide variety of services in a destination to create a holiday package. If each package we sell consists of accommodation, transportation and activities, let’s see what resources are available to increase sustainability and resilience in these three areas.

Today, we want to address the issue of single use plastic and how, collectively, we can reduce its AB-use. It is estimated that, if we continue to produce and dispose of single-use plastic in the current quantities, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. The increase of plastics in the world is definitely alarming and it is affecting our global ecosystems.

This is why we believe that,  by identifying actions focused on the three areas mentioned, we can demand from our suppliers how to act and change current practices related to the use of plastic, by those that opt ??for its reduction. Reduce must always be the first option, since not all countries have an appropriate and effective recycling system.

Solutions for the hospitality industry

Travel Without Plastic has just launched a practical guide that gathers specific actions to help the hotel industry reduce the amount of single-use plastic. This guide aims to accompany hoteliers in the transition towards a more sustainable business model, where in addition to significantly reducing the amount of waste they generate, they will be able to save money and truly create a positive impact on the environment.

In its free introduction, we can extract 3 recommendations to reduce the single-use plastic related to personal hygiene items offered in a hotel room:

1) Use refillable containers that are glued to the wall and that are purchased in bulk.

2) Make small toiletries available only on demand at the hotel reception.

3) Use soap naked bars instead of standard toiletries (these are also available in champoo and hair conditioners).

Solutions for transport providers 

Transport providers have it easier because the use of plastic is normally reduced to food and drink containers offered during the journey – in this section we refer exclusively to land transport providers. Our recommendations here are related to the replacement of plastic containers with those that can be refilled:

1) Use drinks in glass containers and water provided in barrels that can be use to fill up the client’s own bottles (reusable bottles previously provided by the tour operator to their customers).

2) Provide snacks bought in batches, such as big bars that can be cut in slices at the time of consumption.

3) Use glasses, cutlery and plates made out of organic products instead of plastic or styrofoam.

In Mexico there are 100% biodegradable options for these items made from bamboo or prickly pear fiber. However, the best possible option would be to have a selection of items made out of metal, although this requires an initial investment.

Solutions for activity providers

Activity providers and local guides have the ability to get the message across better than any other person involved in the holiday package. You might be asking why… well, because through a good heritage interpretation during the guided tours, they are  allowing the visitor to really experience sustainable tourism in practice. In the case of the use of plastics, they can also explain with real examples the impacts derived from our daily actions when we travel.

Our three recommendations for activity providers are:

1) Use a refillable water bottle (it is very important that you lead by example!), and organise refill stations for your clients to use.

2) Bring a bag to collect plastic waste during the tour, and thus encourage tourists to cooperate while creating awareness so that they do not leave garbage themselves.

3) Work with restaurants and food stalls that do not provide plastic items, such as straws.

And finally, raise public awareness!

Equally important is being able to convey the right message among travelers and potential customers. As an educational material for the general public, this article by It’s a Fish Thing is very interesting, because it explains very well the current situation of the plastic issue, the roots of the problem and provides practical recommendations that we can all apply in our day to day practice.

For the little ones, our travelers of tomorrow, we loved this book for children by Trash Hero that features a set of stories, quizzes and games that explain the impact of waste on our planet in plain words and encourages all to become “Trash Heroes”.

If our commercial activity depends on selling cultural and natural assets of a destinations, it seems sensible that we develop ways of working with our suppliers towards a more sustainable tourism industry that takes into account its externalities. This way we will guarantee that our work truly reflects on creating better places to live, and better places to visit. Do you believe it too?

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