Plastic is not fantastic - Interview #3

Reducing the environmental impact of tourism with Ally Dragozet

In 2018, worldwide international tourist arrivals (overnight arrivals) reached an estimated 1.4 billion, two years ahead of previous predictions. This is seemingly great news for tourism operators but what does this mean for the environment? How can the tourism industry improve its practices to offset harm to nature?

To find out, we interviewed Ally, the founder of Sea Going Green, a consultancy firm that specialises in sustainable tourism.


Hi Ally! What is Sea Going Green and what do you do?

I’m a marine biologist and founder of Sea Going Green — a consultancy for tourism companies who want to implement sustainable practices to #GoGreenForTheBigBlue.

We promote sustainable tourism through sustainable business without negatively affecting customer experience. Our mission is to specially alleviate the negative impact tourism has on marine environments.

73% of millennials (22-37 years old) and gen Z travellers (<24 years old) are more likely to pay for sustainability and expect companies to take positive environmental action. It’s in the best interests of the tourism industry to conserve the environment because a destination ultimately loses its profitability when it loses it beauty.


What’s your mission?

My personal mission has always been to find a way to make an impact in the two fields I’m passionate in: tourism and marine biology. That’s why I founded Sea Going Green. I wanted to work and consult in a field I knew well.

 

How do you help tourism companies implement sustainable practices?

We develop and carry out Green Transition Strategies for tourism operators that want to #GoGreenForTheBigBlue. These strategies include an environmental impact assessment, sustainable marine tourism plan, and a best practices report. Through these, we help operators qualify for relevant green awards and certificates so their achievements are publicly recognised. 

We also provide training and capacity development to promote ecological awareness and the value of responsible marine tourism throughout the industry. This helps strengthen and maintain knowledge, skills, and experience to achieve more sustainable tourism. Tourism operators that are dependent on the environment should be taking action and protecting the natural assets and resources that attract their visitors.


How does tourism impact our marine environment?

The tourism industry has the power to be a catalyst for sustainable use of the natural environment. It’s a rapidly growing industry – with predictions of 1,8 billion international tourist arrivals estimated by 2030. The industry already accounts for 10% of the world’s GDP. The business volume is equal to that of oil exports. And one in every eleven jobs on the planet is connected to the tourism industry.

But being such a large industry reflects negatively on the marine environment. With more and more tourists, more space needs to be made for accomodation and other tourist activities. Coastal development is depleting the marine environment, through forest clearings, erosion of beaches and islands, coral reef damage, and increasing pressures on local communities. Water quality in high tourist areas also present increased pressures on wastewater treatments and untreated effluents.


What is the relationship between tourism and plastic pollution?

Think of all the plastic straws and plastic cups being used just in hotel resorts. A majority of tourists have adopted a ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality when it comes to plastics and travelling. They don’t think twice about buying plastic water bottles and throwing them away the same day. This is why we believe upstream behavioural change is so important in the industry. Tourists need to be reminded how their actions while travelling affects local environments and communities so we can reduce the amount of waste downstream.


What are your tips of using less plastic while travelling?

  1. Skip the plastic water bottles. Carry a reusable one and most places would be happy to refill it for you.
  2. Say no to plastic straws or ask for an alternative – like a bamboo straw or a Straw by Straw.
  3. Carry around your own tote bag! Those grocery store plastic bags add up during your travels and are less durable.

Ally Dragozet is a marine biologist and the founder of Sea Going Green.