Green tourism: Using technology to reduce tourists’ carbon footprint

Each year our desire to get away from it all contributes to around 5% of the world’s     carbon dioxide emissions. Ignoring the impact of tourism on the environment would be equivalent to ignoring the carbon emissions of a developed industrialised nation.

This is why Dr Janet Dickinson and Dr Viachaslau Filimonau from BU’s School of Tourism are working on ways to reduce the carbon footprint of holiday-makers. Rather than developing punitive taxes or penalties, the research is looking at how to give people good incentives and strategies to cut down on unnecessary travel.

The BU team is starting close to home by studying the behaviour of holiday-makers at a Dorset campsite, where up to 300 people stay each week during the summer peak season.

“The aim is to try to revolutionise the travel decision making process,” says Dr Janet Dickinson, senior lecturer in BU’s School of Tourism.

“The idea is to give people visibility of transport options in their immediate future through social networking and through smart phones so they can see there are opportunities to share transport, or opportunities to avoid making journeys,” she says.

The study is part of a wider Sixth Sense Transport Project – a collaboration between BU and colleagues from the Universities of Southampton, Lancaster, Edinburgh and Salford.

“We are looking at a campsite, but the same approach could be used in any holiday community – a hotel, group of cottages or caravan park,” Dr Dickinson explains.

“You have a community in the same place often all doing things at the same time and there’s a huge potential for people to make better use of travel resources. You have an awful lot of congestion in the areas linked to tourism.”

The idea is to use social networks so people can reveal anonymously to their fellow campers where they are and what they are doing. At the same time they can see what everyone else on the campsite is up to, what their            immediate plans are, and what the weather and travel conditions are like.

“If you are heading to the beach tomorrow, and you know 50 other people are too, it allows you to make contact and share travel – or find out about bus routes – or warn of congestion. You might need just one item from the shops – and this could allow you to ask someone already at the shops or heading off there to pick it up for you,” suggests Dr Dickinson.

The project is first assessing holiday-maker’s attitudes to sharing. The team are finding out more about holiday-maker’s habits, what sort of information they are willing to share and how prepared they are to join forces. Real life holiday-makers at the campsite will be invited to try out smart phone applications designed to help them on their break.

The project is also looking at social networking in schools to help parents share transport and promote ‘walking buses’, which would see supervised groups of children walking to school on predetermined routes. Another is        looking at reducing the carbon footprint of the logistics industry – moving goods by lorry and train.