LATA – Sustainable Tourism Workshop

On Tuesday 23 October, we joined LATA at their Sustainable Tourism Workshop to lead a Plastic Footprint session. This dynamic and interactive session looked at the different number of disposable plastics used during a family holiday to Galapagos, from booking to returning home, and encouraged thoughts about possible interventions.

LATA - Sustainable Tourism Workshop - Galapagos Conservation Trust

LATA – Sustainable Tourism Workshop – Galapagos Conservation Trust

Around 30 LATA members from across the tourism industry joined together for our afternoon session. Andy Donnelly, GCTs Flagship Programmes Consultant, introduced the problems of plastic in Galapagos, and our mission for Galapagos to become plastic pollution free once again. The challenge of the afternoon was to identify every piece of disposable plastic a family of four, with two teenage children, would use during a holiday to Galapagos, from booking to returning home. This included everything from the obviously single-use items such as plastic cutlery, airport liquid bags and coffee cups to the unusual but still frequently disposable items like flip-flops, money wallets and plastic travel document folders. Then, we re-grouped to discuss the intervention points and how the tourism industry can support to reduce the number of those items.

LATA - Sustainable Tourism Workshop - Galapagos Conservation Trust

LATA – Sustainable Tourism Workshop – Galapagos Conservation Trust

Everyone present found the session very useful and were shocked by the potentially vast amount of disposable items used when travelling. Some key figures we all found surprising were:

  • On a seven-day land-based holiday, a family might use at least 112 plastic water bottles in one week (four per person per day).
  • On a seven day cruise, a family of four might use upwards of 600 pieces of disposable plastic across the whole trip.
  • The highest plastic usage rate, the number used per hour, is at the airport where >40 pieces of disposable plastic might be used per hour by the family.
  • The large majority of plastic items are just used for convenience.

It was also interesting to discuss how these scenarios would change with a different type of family, i.e. one with babies or toddlers, or a couple, and how that would affect the plastic usage and intervention points.

There was some great feedback from the delegates about the Plastic Footprint session:

  • “It was shocking to see how much plastic you can accumulate while travelling”.
  • “Many things are easy to implement”.
  • “Plastics are everywhere, but can be reduced with planning, education and the right attitude”.
  • “Awareness is a journey…communication and messaging is key”.

Simple solutions were suggested for how tour operators can help; from sending all the booking documents via pdf, to providing useful planning and packing tips on what to bring, and what not to bring to Galapagos. Other points highlighted that the solutions to some disposable plastic sources are not so simple, and require multiagency and international collaboration, such as airport liquid bags and aeroplane meals.

The session gave us really useful baseline data to understand what the situation is now – so we can highlight the most important areas for behaviour change, then measure the impact of our plastic programme.

A key motivator behind this workshop was to look at how we can change the behaviours of tourists visiting Galapagos – and discuss the key role tour operators can play in helping us achieve this through their messaging and actions they take.

Thank you to LATA for hosting, and for enabling this session to take place. A big thank you to everyone who took part, for all their great ideas and constructive feedback.

If you would like to know more about our plastics work, please visit our plastic programme page.

If you are interested in learning more about sustainable tourism, find out more here.

If you are interested in learning how you and other tour operators can support Galapagos conservation- email