The theme of the Conference of the International Society of Travel Medicine I attended in June was Travel Medicine in a Changing Climate. We heard depressing statistics about how climate change exacerbates existing threats and acts as a threat multiplier and particularly affects people living in marginal areas who are already vulnerable. Disasters caused 61 % of the 28 million displacements that occurred last year. Interactions between climate and infections are very complex and poorly understood. For example, with increasing temperatures in Africa malaria may decline and dengue increase as the optimal temperatures for the different mosquitoes that transmit the two illnesses differ.
A more encouraging speaker was the one on Making Tourism Sustainable. She told us about the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) which is a non-profit organisation which recognises that tourism has the potential to do harm but endeavours to make tourism beneficial. It has established Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. These are “the guiding principles and minimum requirements that any tourism business or destination should aspire to reach in order to protect and sustain the world’s natural and cultural resources, while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for conservation and poverty alleviation.” Before we travel we should think about our destination and activities carefully. We should think about our mode of transport and if flying offset our carbon. Is our accommodation or tour operator GSTC accredited? Pack lightly to reduce our carbon and take reusable drink bottles and coral safe sunscreens. We should learn some local language, pay the price (not haggle) and respect the natural environment.