"It's both a nice idea, and a masterclass in deflection – a feel-good way to get us to lower our impacts rather than scrutinise theirs," said Justin Francis, co-founder and CEO of UK-based activist holiday company Responsible Travel. "Much like voluntary carbon offsets, it shifts the burden of responsibility away from airlines onto individuals. Personal accountability is important and innovation is great, but we should take care that it doesn't distract us from the real system changes that are needed: robust regulation and fairer taxes on fuel, for instance."
Around the world, skiers are trying to lower their carbon footprints. But while winter sports holidays have long been the domain of excess oversized baggage costs, there is an element of changing perceptions. A new idea is emerging in resorts across France, Switzerland and Austria: leave the gear at home and rent it at the resort.
To counter luggage space – and also reduce the need for travellers to invest in high-value sports equipment – resorts and rental companies are emphasising reducing and reusing by renting out hats, gloves, goggles, pants and jackets – as well as the customary skis, poles, boots, boards and helmets. And for those keen to travel by train or other public transport, it is already a hit, from Verbier in Switzerland to resorts across Austria thanks to nationwide services like SkiGala.
"It's easy to pack light for a winter sports holiday when you know you can collect most of the gear you'll need upon arrival," said Krissy Roe, senior sustainability manager at Hotelplan, a pan-European group of specialist tour operators, including Inghams and Esprit. "Every item manufactured has a carbon footprint, so it's far better that item is well used by multiple customers and can be repaired by people with the skills and tools to give it a longer shelf-life. Cost-wise, it can also be better value to rent in resort, instead of paying for checked bags and oversized luggage on flights."
While Venice was the first destination bold enough to consider banning wheelie suitcases to better preserve the city's overcrowded streets in 2014, Dubrovnik has turned the argument into action – now recommending visitors leave their rolling luggage at home.
Not for the first time in recent years, overtourism has drawn the ire of locals living in the fortified Adriatic city, and the currents that swirl below the surface have led the Dubrovik Tourist Office to take action. Releasing a guidance video and updated advice on appropriate visitor etiquette earlier this month, the city now recommends visitors not disturb the historic cobbled streets by carrying – not dragging – wheeled baggage around.
"Often, travellers with 20-plus kilograms of luggage simply fill up their suitcase as they believe they've paid for it," explained Pippa Ganderton, product director of ATPI Halo, a CO2 measurement, reduction and offset service and provider of sustainable travel solutions. "One potential solution that airlines may consider in the future would be adding more weight categories for hand-luggage and carry-on luggage. By offering smaller options, travellers as well as destinations can win while decreasing flight emissions."
Safari lodges in national parks across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda offer a different proposition to most holidays. Despite the high price tag, the vibe is always relaxed and unbuttoned, with dressing down – not dressing up – the appropriate look that informs the whole campfire mood.
But while there is no ban on certain types of luggage, restrictions are commonly in place and there is an expectation for travellers to understand and respect the need to arrive light.
This battle of the baggage means compact, soft-sided bags have long been favoured by the bulk of tour operators and luggage with wheels or, worse still, those with an in-built frame often won't make it past the departures lounge and onto the runway.
"We always advise safari clients to pack light for a number of reasons," said Kathy Boate, CEO of Cartology Travel, a bespoke luxury travel agency. "There aren't only strict weight restrictions on the smaller planes, but many regions use light aircraft where you can't take hard sided suitcases – they just won't fit in the hold. Plus, you just don't need a lot of clothes while on safari anyway. Quality lodges also supply toiletries and towels, sunscreen and insect repellent, helping you cut down on your need to pack at home in the first place."
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