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Travel sustainably! – Reshaping thinking at a young age is the best time

2024-05-28 10:41:00

This spring, the ten-year-old Tourism Forum series raised awareness of responsible travel, including a survey launch on the topic, while in the autumn its focus will be on eco-friendly festival management. Interview with Dr. habil. Melinda Jászberényi, head of department.
Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem

The tourism sector has a significant impact on the environment, but there are more and more solutions to offset the negative effects – this is the main theme of the Tourism Forum. Dr. habil. Melinda Jászberényi, Associate Professor at the Institute of Sustainable Development and Head of the Department of Tourism at Corvinus was interwieved about this initiative. 


What is the main purpose of the Tourism Forum, how are the topics chosen? 


For 10 years now, the Tourism Forum of the Corvinus University of Budapest has been colouring the university’s everyday life, each semester focusing on a current phenomenon and change that is of particular importance to the economy and the tourism sector. From the very beginning, the programme has been very popular among students, sometimes coming from other universities and from very different courses. As the head of the Tourism Forum, I have always sought to involve renowned representatives of the profession and/or the discipline. I would like to mention, for example, the Pulitzer Prize-winning communications expert Richárd Kiss Róbert Kiss or popular gastronomic bloggers such as András Jókuti or Zsófia Mautner, who enriched our programmes with exciting, practice-oriented lectures. After the pandemic, the performance indicators of the international tourism sector are consolidating faster than forecasted, making the environmental impact and, for some destinations, the overtourism a new and pressing issue. We cannot ignore the transformative effects of the fourth industrial revolution, which is also a paradigm shift in tourism, such as the rise of digital nomadism and the use of artificial intelligence. In conjunction with the Tourism Forum’s awareness-raising lectures, a university-level sustainability situation analysis was launched at the initiative of the Department of Tourism’s faculty, which explores the travel habits, knowledge of disruptive technologies and sustainability aspirations of domestic and international students.


What is the purpose of the student survey? 


Researchers from the Department of Tourism are currently conducting an online survey to investigate the changing patterns of travel, and the sector-shaping effects of sustainable consumption and artificial intelligence. Our aim is to model the dimensions of environmental awareness by analysing consumer attitudes, linking in a novel way the issue of technology adoption in relation to tourism. 


We often hear that tourism is the most environmentally damaging sector. Why? 


Tourism involves a change of location, and the passenger transport sector – especially conventionally powered, motorised vehicles – is a major contributor to environmental pollution through their emissions. This is particularly true for air transport, where, although fixed-route transport is an increasingly attractive alternative, low-cost airlines continue to dominate the leisure travel market, such as city breaks. It is often possible to visit a major European city for a few thousand forints, which is an attractive option for leisure, especially for Generation Z. The tourism sector, including tourism researchers, has a responsibility to raise consumer awareness and to promote alternatives to public transport that are less environmentally damaging. One example is rail transport, which I believe is becoming increasingly suitable for access to major European cities, thanks to continuous improvements. Another promising development is the rise of shared mobility services, of which there are a growing number of successful examples across Europe and in Hungary. Our research also shows that students from abroad have a significantly lower propensity to own a car and are more open to alternative modes of mobility, for a number of cultural reasons. At the Tourism Forum, our invited experts, leading tourism stakeholders and researchers will present their experiences on these and related topics, demonstrating good practices of the feasibility of sustainable transport and tourism. 


Why is a practical example important? 


In my experience, in principle, everyone is aware that we have a duty to preserve the planet in the best possible condition for the next generation – it’s almost common knowledge. However, environmental awareness often boils down to selective waste collection or the use of re-cups. The aim of the Tourism Forum is therefore to showcase real-life projects to highlight responsible consumption and travel options. 


What does this mean in concrete terms? 


In autumn 2024, the event will focus on festival management. Festival organisers will be invited to showcase their successful eco-innovations. In the following semester, the focus will be on eco-conscious gastronomy – how catering venues can most effectively reduce their carbon footprint, better integrate local producers into the sector’s bloodstream by creating short supply chains, and reduce the environmental concerns associated with transporting goods. In this context, we plan to invite again several renowned gastronomy bloggers to our campus and to show how getting involved in voluntary activities can help sustainable tourism. 


It is surprising that you can volunteer while travelling. 


There are also many good examples of travellers spending a day or two volunteering during their vacation, for example helping to pick up rubbish on the beach or doing voluntary work where they have booked accommodation. There are also a number of alternative economic models that have been successful, allowing tourists to work for animal welfare organisations in return for discounts or even free half board. In Norway, for example, tourists who agree to use nets to collect plastic waste accumulated on the surface of the water can get a free boat trip in the fjords. 


Sustainable behaviour is costly, and it is well known that the Hungarian consumer is typically price sensitive, and a cheap weekend flight is very tempting… 


This is precisely why I consider the events of the Tourism Forum very important, because we need to develop an environmentally conscious attitude and responsible consumption patterns in young people, and we are trying to provide the necessary scientific and practical background for this. In the past and in the near future, we will continue our work at Corvinus University of Budapest in this spirit, and we will try to represent and promote it at the events of the Tourism Forum. 


Katalin Török 

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GEN.:2024.06.21. - 14:40:46