The Ecological Footprint of Hostel Tourists in Ontario and Quebec
Purvis, Claire Lynne Jay
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In recent years, the impacts of tourism on the environment have indicated an urgent need for sustainability principles to be introduced within the industry. Although problems arise regarding the definition and meanings of sustainability, the Ecological Footprint has been proposed as a key indicator of sustainable tourism. In this study, the ecological footprint was adapted to a tourism context, in order to measure the sustainability of backpacker tourists, who are speculated to be environmentally friendly due to their low budgets and use of few resources. During this study surveys were conducted with 123 backpackers and hostel tourists staying at 8 hostels located throughout Ontario and Quebec. Information was collected on respondents’ food, activity and transportation behaviours, as well as hostel occupancy rates, property sizes, energy usages, and waste management routines. This data was inputted into the ecological footprint calculator to determine the average ecological footprints of backpacker tourists in Ontario and Quebec, and the relationship between the ecological footprint, demographics and travelling behaviours. In addition to the data collected for ecological footprint calculations, information was also gathered on hostel and respondent environmental behaviours. The findings indicate that backpacker tourism is substantially more sustainable than some other forms of international travel, however it is generally not sustainable as an activity. Backpacker ecological footprints were considerably higher than the average footprints of residents in their home countries, indicating the immense impacts of transportation, which accounted for 77% of the average EF in this study. As most backpackers in this study were international travellers, the transportation impacts were often a result of flight emissions and although an inquiry was made into sustainable flight options, it is clear that there is currently no perfect solution for decreasing flight impacts. As a result, reducing the ecological footprint of backpacker tourism to a sustainable level currently appears to be for the most part, impossible. However, as backpacker tourism does contribute to the social and economic sustainability of some areas, minor changes are possible within the sector, to at least make the backpacker market as environmentally sustainable as currently possible.