The year 2020 has been a really difficult year for many people, but the tourism industry especially has been hit hard. The COVID-19 pandemic has virtually halted all travel around the world, meaning regions that rely on income from tourists have been unable to bring in an income. Regional Australia specifically has taken a huge loss, with the pandemic arriving only months after experiencing some of the most damaging bushfires in Australia’s history. It is Australia’s costliest natural disaster ever, even before taking the COVID-19 pandemic into account. Since March in Victoria, due to the pandemic, people from suburban areas have not been allowed into regional Victoria, to slow the spread of the virus. With these restrictions now easing, one way in which we can support these communities, is by visiting and supporting the local economy to help it recover.
As somebody who lives in Victoria, I look forward to visiting some of these regional areas in the coming months. But even if you don’t live in Australia, there are a lot of reasons to get into a regional area near you beyond supporting the economy after a natural disaster. Escaping from our hectic lives in the city to a getaway a few hours’ drive away can be a great way to have a sustainable holiday. Those partaking in sustainable tourism should try to conserve the environment and the culture of the local community, which can be achieved by these short trips.
For one, the transportation to get there does not make near the environmental impact that taking a plane to a holiday destination does. While taking public transportation like a bus or a train makes the smallest footprint on the environment, even driving a car does not have the same level of impact as a plane. Small trips into the country are also much easier to do over a weekend and cheaper than a flight away, so filling a car with some family members or friends should not be too difficult.
Buying from small businesses rather than large chain franchises is also a way to support the community. Not only does it help the local people financially, but it invests in the local community long term. Each town has their own character, so by these businesses thriving financially, it helps these places retain their cultural heritage and will bring in tourists long into the future. Supporting businesses that use locally sourced products causes a ripple effect of good for the region, and also means that less transportation of goods is required from city centres, again reducing your environmental footprint.
Another new innovation in Australia have been walking tours run by Aboriginal people. The indigenous people in Australia have been here for tens of thousands of years, so have a special connection with the land. These tours can help Australians learn more about the interesting history of Aboriginal Australians and the significance of certain parts of nature to their culture, as well as acknowledging the traditional owners of the land.
Best of all, travelling to a regional area can take you to some incredible landscapes, see some fascinating animals and meet lovely people, so is well worth a trip. Just make sure that while you take lots of pictures, you also take all your rubbish with, leaving only footsteps behind. /Liam Dudley-AIYEP delegate2020/