rethink sustainability

    The rise of eco-conscious tourism in APAC

    Singapore launches initiatives to tackle heat

    Sustainable travel is becoming increasingly important in Asia-Pacific. While implementation challenges remain, the growth of eco-conscious tourism is a vital development for the region, and is largely driven by consumer demand.
    The tourism industry in Asia-Pacific (APAC) has played a key role in driving economic development in the region. In 2019, the sector contributed nearly 10% of the region's total GDP. This bustling industry faced a reckoning when the global pandemic struck in 2020, with its contribution falling to only 4.6% of the total GDP that year.1


    Rethinking tourism

    While the world has turned the page, and moved past Covid-19, tourists are rethinking their travel habits. An impact survey by The Economist of more than 4,500 travellers in the region – across Australia, Japan, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand – shows that more than 7 in 10 respondents believe that Covid-19 has changed the way they think about tourism, with sustainability becoming more important to them. 57% of tourists want to avoid contributing to over-tourism, while 69.9% say they are likely to avoid travelling to crowded destinations.2

    While the world has turned the page, and moved past Covid-19, tourists are rethinking their travel habits

    Governments are positioning themselves to take advantage of demand from travellers who factor sustainability into their considerations when choosing travel destinations. In Southeast Asia, for example, Cambodia's Ministry of Environment has been developing its vision for the Cardamom Mountains, setting up protected areas in the Siem Reap, Kampong Speu, and Koh Kong provinces.3 Meanwhile, Malaysia is positioning itself as an eco-tourism destination, with the state of Sabah being a key hub.4

    Companies are also catering to these sustainable travellers. In 2022, the hotel chain Hilton announced that it was promoting eco-conscious travel across its properties in the APAC region. It is making sustainable practices more accessible for guests, and has focussed on a range of initiatives from holistic water stewardship, sustainable dining and green kitchens, to the launch of carbon neutral meetings and events.5

    Read also: Lombard Odier's article on Asia's food crisis.


    Challenges remain

    Proponents of eco-conscious tourism hope it will help tourism-dependent economies become more sustainable and regenerative. However, transitioning to a sustainable travel model is not easy.

    Businesses, including small- and medium-sized enterprises, will need to buy into the process, and weigh the impacts of accepting short term pain for longer term benefits

    Businesses, including small- and medium-sized enterprises, will need to buy into the process, and weigh the impacts of accepting short term pain for longer term benefits. Infrastructure, technology and development costs all have to be factored in, at least initially, and stakeholders will have to work closely with site managers, conservationists, academics, scientists, and non-governmental bodies to ensure that their enterprises are truly sustainable. Then there are marketing and social media costs, as businesses and regions target specific types of tourists.6

    Learn how companies are leading the transition.


    The sustainable travel transition

    Transitioning to sustainable tourism in Asia will take time, but there is no doubt there is demand for it. Consumers are more aware than ever of the impact they are making on the world. More than half of those surveyed by The Economist said they are willing to pay a premium for sustainable travel options, and 57.2% say they will actively avoid destinations or activities that would negatively impact an environment or community.7

    Consumers are more aware than ever of the impact they are making on the world

    At Lombard Odier we believe it is vital to protect Earth's natural capital. As a society we now extract around 100 billion tons of natural resources from Earth every year8 – more than half the weight of Mount Everest9 – and produce approximately 70 billion tons of waste annually.

    Equally severe are our emissions. To stay in line with the targets of the Paris Agreement, total greenhouse gases must fall by 7.6% per annum until 203010, and we need to reduce transport emissions by 90% by 2050.11 Currently, 20% of global emissions come from transport12, of which almost 10% come from heavy-duty transport such as aviation.13

    We believe that a transformation of our economic model is underway, as we shift to an economy that is Circular, Lean, Inclusive and Clean (CLIC®). This is driven by investor demands, changing consumer behaviour, cheaper technologies and new regulations. As the tourism industry in APAC recovers post Covid-19, and with travel revenue projected to contribute 32% more to the region's gross domestic product than it did before the pandemic14, the various players in the industry need to come together to ensure that tourism and travel become more sustainable.

    Now, more than ever, we believe it is vital to make systemic changes to the way that we work, live, and travel. The rise of sustainable travel in Asia can only be a positive development in our path to a more sustainable future.

    Discover Singapore's heat mitigation initiatives.


    2 https://impact.economist.com/perspectives/sites/default/files/rebuilding_tourism_apac_economist_impact_airbnb.pdf
    3 https://asianews.network/ecotourism-taking-off-in-cambodias-cardamom-mountains/
    4 https://www.traveldailynews.asia/sustainable-tourism/malaysia-positions-itself-as-a-sustainable-destination-at-fitur/
    5 https://stories.hilton.com/apac/releases/hilton-boosts-eco-conscious-travel-across-properties-in-asia-pacific
    6 https://www.travelweekly-asia.com/Travel-News/Ecotourism-grows-in-popularity
    8 https://www.lombardodier.com/home/rethink-sustainability/investing-in-our-natural-capital.html
    9 https://mounteverest.info/mount-everest-weigh-mass-volume/
    10 https://www.lombardodier.com/files/live/sites/loportail/files/lo%20green/transport/post-Covidworld_EN_31Aug2021.pdf
    11 https://climate.ec.europa.eu/eu-action/transport-emissions_en
    12 https://www.statista.com/topics/7476/transportation-emissions-worldwide/
    13 https://www.statista.com/statistics/1185535/transport-carbon-dioxide-emissions-breakdown/
    14 https://www.cnbc.com/2022/10/17/when-will-asias-travel-industry-recover-maybe-as-soon-as-2023.html

    Important information

    This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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