Leave No Trace and your Tourism and Hospitality Business - Travel and Camp on Durable Ground
Out of all national stakeholders, from the government to local communities, it is the tourism hospitality businesses that have the greatest and most direct impact when it comes to educating tourists. This can be a responsible business action, and one that could be included in a business sustainability policy, for example. Many people are still unfamiliar with the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace. The more the message is out there, the bigger the impact. It is true that the tourism and hospitality sector has a certain carbon footprint. However, this industry has the capacity to have a positive impact and to create a ripple effect through educating their staff and visitors.
In areas, particularly those with high visitor footfall, erosion can occur. It is estimated that rates of erosion at Irish coastal sites range between 0.2-1.6 metres per year. It has been said that camping and caravanning create certain damage in particular. In saying this, once responsible behaviour by both the business and tourist is implemented, this can be reversed. In this article I will be covering the fourth principle of Leave No Trace, ‘Travel and Camp on Durable Ground’. This is a key principle to prevent the progression of erosion and to conserve our environment and landscape, along with all the living things and biodiversity that come with it. After all, in 2019 91% of our visitors were satisfied with their trip to Ireland due to the unspoilt and natural environment. The impressive diversity and quality of our landscape is one of our main assets for why tourists come to Ireland. It is for reasons like these that it is important to educate our guests and actively conserve our environment.
Travel and Camp on Durable Ground
Erosion is progressively affecting Ireland’s coastal areas and overall landscape. The idea of going ‘off-the-beaten’ track, in particular since the pandemic when crowds were avoided, has become an attractive way to visit. We should maintain our adventurous spirit and curiosity to explore. This way we learn more and gain awareness of lifestyles and nature around us. This goes for our guests. Allow them to explore our countryside, our villages and cities. Allow them explore our ways of life and that of our natural environment and biodiversity. However, educate them do so in a responsible manner.
Can one footstep really have an impact? It depends on the terrain, how many footsteps will follow that first footstep and other such influencing matters. One footstep can lead to many footsteps following suit. This can lead to trampling. Trampling causes vegetation damage and soil erosion in most environments. Recovery time can take up to 25 years. What is more, soils contain animals and microorganisms, so trampling can destroy these habitats and the possibility of growth. Once plant growth is destroyed, erosion persists.
To prevent trampling and erosion, we can use surfaces that are resistant to impact. This includes rock, outcrops, sand, gravel, dry grasses, snow and water. Surfaces to avoid include soft plants, riparian zones, muddy sites, fragile soil layers and bog and wetlands. In coastal areas, we can hike in small numbers, on durable surfaces and spread out. Also when the tide is low, hard sand, gravel or rock is exposed. Wherever there is a designated trail, it is best to stick to it. However, these are options for when that trail does not exist. Ireland’s natural environments and cultural heritage is varied, fascinating but fragile. It is important to be conscious of displaced wildlife, eroded soils, trampled vegetation and polluted waters.
What this means for your tourism or hospitality business?
So what can your business do? You can educate your staff and visitors. As mentioned before, this can come part of your sustainability policy. When we are learned in an area, we can sometimes forget that others might not be, so it is always beneficial to repeat our messaging. You can promote this principle of Leave No Trace by sharing the following pointers with your staff and guests:
- Go explore, but try not to go too ‘off the beaten track’. Stick to designated trails.
- Reduce your impact, use already established campsites. Campsites are found not made, same goes for campfires. Avoid creating tracks and campsites.
- When designated trails are not available, use the most durable surfaces, such as rock and gravel. Stick to areas that are not prone to erosion.
- Before leaving a campsite, make sure to leave it exactly as it was found, if not better. Replace any rocks and fluff up any flattened grass from tents. Ideally, we should change the positioning of our tent every couple of days if we are heading out on long camping trips. This prevents grass from dying and becoming discoloured.
What this means for your destination?
When promoting this principle of Leave No Trace, signage is important. You can share the information shared above, however it is crucial that this signage is located strategically at areas where visitors may be in doubt of their actions, or where perpetrators are prone to making choices that could have a negative impact on the local environment. Popular camping and campfire spots could be suitable for camping notices, and where hiking trails veer off-piste, a sign could inform the visitor of where they should travel.
Another idea would be to share a forum with businesses and community groups so they can discuss ways to come together and raise awareness of this principle. Maybe sensitive spots could be pointed out that only those who are out on the trails would know about. The better the information sharing, the stronger the possibility of conserving the local environment.
An important point to consider when educating guests is to make sure they are not being lectured, that there is no right or wrong and that information is passed on in a friendly and a non-preachy manner. Share information on your website and social media sites. If walking tours or camping feature in an itinerary or trip, include information on this principle in an email prior to the trip. You could even share any of the Leave No Trace videos available on YouTube. Why not make your own that are specific to your place or destination?
This is a guide for you when highlighting the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace. You can check out previous articles here.
Aoibheann is an accredited Leave No Trace trainer and delivers Awareness Courses as part of destination development training programmes. You can learn more about previous destination development training programmes here.
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