To travel or not to travel...

As the debate heats up on whether travel is a force for good or merely another contributor to our carbon footprint it is interesting to see the impact the current pandemic is having on both arguments.

April 2020 • Francis Torrilla, Managing Director

To travel or not to travel...

You may have read the many articles on the positive outcome to air quality across the world, especially in the more polluted centres of cities such as Delhi and Beijing. This is indeed welcoming and will no doubt lead to improved health for many of their citizens. I live on the Gatwick Airport flight path and the difference is reminiscent of the Icelandic volcanic eruption and the ash cloud that grounded most flights for a not inconsiderable period of time; there are clear benefits to the world being in lockdown at least insofar as the planet is concerned. 

Wellbeing, both mental and physical is harder to measure. If travel all but stopped or reverted to the 1950’s number of privileged travellers, the loss of jobs worldwide would be over 300 million according to the WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) this in turn would have consequences for hundreds of millions more that are dependent on the salaries of these workers and the taxes that their governments collect.

Wildlife poaching is already on the increase not only across Africa but in other countries such as Cambodia which is not normally associated with wildlife. Many nature reserves around the world are able to employ guards and rangers because they are directly funded by the income the park gets from visitors, be it the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Masai Mara in Kenya or Ranthambore in India to name but a few. As travellers move out poachers move in. In many cases these are purely for the local market, if you find yourself unemployed with a family to feed and no support, it is all too easy to see how you would resort to taking sustenance from the wild. Another large factor is that in many instances wildlife is in direct competition with farmers, this in turn leads to conflict which will always result in loss of habitat, we know that all too well in this country, with many habitats, particularly hedgerows, lost over the decades which we have only recently began to redress. The BBC, one of the more trusted broadcasters reports of the fears of a spike in poaching as pandemic poverty strikes, see BBC's 'Coronavirus: Fears of spike in poaching as pandemic poverty strikes', with the Daily Mail reporting on the 16th April “Coronavirus lockdown leads to a spike in poaching of critically endangered birds, tigers and rhinos as people in rural Asian communities hunt to supplement lost income”.

Travellers have repeatedly played their part in protecting habitats, by supporting local businesses; we at Jules Verne like to think that we are part of this solution. We believe tourism should work positively towards protecting not only wildlife but cultural differences and historical buildings too; by employing local guides and tour managers across the vast majority of our programme and supporting our partners in making informed choices to better protect animals, their habitats and communities that live alongside them.