No doubt you’ve heard of “sustainable tourism” as a buzzword in the travel industry, but have you given much thought to what it actually is and how it can affect the recommendations you make to your travel clients?
Sustainable tourism is rooted in the responsible environmental stewardship of our planet and the cultures that rest on it. It addresses some of the most difficult challenges facing us today, including climate change, plastic waste, and overtourism, all of which have been at a tipping point in altering our vulnerable ecosystems and threatening our way of life across the globe.
This year, when the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic pushed pause on travel everywhere, we saw travel leaders bumping up their efforts to consider how, when travel opens back up, we can reinvent a viable industry that sustains itself and the Earth.
Hurtigruten is one of the travel companies working hard to forge new paths in this arena. The Norwegian-based cruise operator has always taken on a pioneering role and has been in business exploring the world’s most demanding waters since 1893. Now, they are leading the way in sustainable expedition cruising.
First battery hybrid-powered cruise ships
Using the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as a framework, Hurtigruten launched the world’s first hybrid-powered cruise ships: Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen have taken revolutionary steps forward in reducing emissions that damage the environment.
The cruise operator has since upgraded a number of its ships from traditional diesel engines to hybrid power combining liquified natural gas (LNG), bio gas (LBG) and battery packs. The two large battery packs allow the vessels’ engines to operate optimally, reducing emissions substantially, and running solely on battery power for limited periods of time.
Hurtigruten’s CEO Daniel Skjeldam said: “The vision of Hurtigruten is to leave a footprint that we are proud of, which means that we are going to go toward ships with zero emissions … I hope that within a decade, we should be where our ships have zero impact on the environment.”
To put this in perspective, daily emissions from one single cruise ship are equal to that of one million cars, and there are 300 cruise ships in the world.
Hurtigruten’s expedition ships appeal to travelers seeking meaningful and immersive travel experiences, with science centers on-deck and inside, observation lounges, lecture halls, photographic centers, video walls, and abundant opportunities for guests to participate in important scientific studies.
And while educational and environmental goals of Hurtigruten are their primary focus, the ships are also outfitted with all the amenities and luxuries, including large state rooms, pool, gym, sauna, spa, lounge, bar and restaurants.
Putting boots on the ground
Hurtigruten is serious about its commitment to set new standards for the entire travel industry. And they are putting boots on the ground through the Hurtigruten Foundation.
The company believes that, by working closely with its guests, partners and organizations, it can make a difference to the local communities it visits. The foundation supports three objectives: 1) conservation of endangered species; 2) fighting against marine and plastic pollution; and 3) financially supporting global and local projects in areas they explore.
The Hurtigruten Foundation backs conservationist activities onboard and ashore, such as beach clean-ups, citizen science, water sampling, oil spill monitoring, and other science-related projects. The line says that it educates guests and creates ambassadors for every destination on every voyage.
Through lectures, discussions and other engaging activities, the Hurtigruten Foundation is a platform for guests and crew to take a stance, volunteer in worthwhile causes, and make a genuine difference – together.
The company was also the first cruise line to ban single-use plastics from its entire fleet, a move that has since been echoed by several other cruise operators.
A lighter footprint for us all
Sustainable tourism is a path to a better future for all of humanity. It is the kind of authentic experience that speaks to travelers who want to be part of the cultures they come upon, and support and build up the communities they visit. They want to know that their footprint is light, and that they gave back to the very communities that enriched their lives during their travels.
Just a hint as you’re wondering which of your clients may want to get involved in this type of experiential travel: Millennials, in particular, are embracing the concept of sustainable tourism as a way to enhance the quality of their lives. But the truth is that sustainable tourism benefits us all, no matter our age, economic status, or the place we call home.
FROM THE SPONSOR: In business since 1893, Hurtigruten operates premium expedition cruises to Antarctica, Svalbard, Alaska, the Caribbean & Central America, Greenland, Iceland, North America, the Northwest Passage, Norway and South America. These are unique destinations where the natural beauty is matched only by the stunning diversity of the wildlife, and often the friendliness of the locals. On each of the small, purpose-built ships in our fleet, you will find modern facilities and equipment designed specifically to sail in remote waters.