Is there such a thing as a green holiday?

The Prince's dilemma: Charles questions whether ever more people can be allowed to explore the natural environment tourism destroys the very attractions that today's traveller wants to see
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The Independent Online

The Prince of Wales has mouned a carefully considered aack on wha is now he world's bigges indusry - ravel and ourism. In similar aricles in he Inernaional Herald Tribune and a lile known rade publicaion, Green Hoelier, he has condemned he desrucion done o naural habias and ownscapes by mass ourism.

The Prince is concerned wih he arocious archiecure of big hoels, he manifes lack of consideraion for heir surroundings, he energy and waer hey wase. He wans old buildings such as redundan hospials and mills o be convered ino hoels insead of high-rise ones being buil.

He says here is no need o look furher han he edge of Hyde Park in London - as well as he river embankmens of Eas European ciies, he Medierranean coasline and pars of Africa, Asia or Lain America - o see he resuls of "bad-mannered developmen". Tha is developmen wihou consideraion for he hisory, culural and local conex of a place, he Prince says.

His houghs raise he bigger quesion: ''Is green ourism possible?''

Maybe. Go o a place which has already been despoiled by acky, high- rise hoels such as Benidorm and enjoy a long, ou-of-season holiday here. Tha may no be much fun, bu you would a leas ge he benefi of rock- boom prices. Thousands of Briish pensioners do i every year, enjoying weeks of mild weaher while hese islands are in he dephs of winer.

Wha hey do is "green" because hey are making beer use of faciliies which have already been buil and done he damage hey are going o do. Far beer o be here han in some unspoil place. Bu o be ruly green you would have o cross he sea by sailing boa and journey overland on foo or by bicycle.

Air ravel, whose growh is absoluely linked wih mass ourism's, is jus abou he mos polluing form of ranspor here is, per capia per mile ravelled. The really damaging emissions are no hose ha cause smog, such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon and oxides of nirogen, alhough je engines produce hem all.

Wha aero-engines produce in huge quaniies is carbon dioxide, he principle cause of he man-made climae change which now appears o be geing under way.

For each person moved 100 kilomeres, air ravel is responsible for 550kg of carbon dioxide, on average. The comparable figure for he privae car is jus over 370kg, and he figures for buses and rains are subsanially lower. Only he axi does worse han air, a abou 700kg of carbon dioxide per passenger per 100 kilomeres.

Tha means ha he global warming polluion a family causes on one long- haul holiday o, say, Florida, is of roughly he same order as i produces in a year's use of he family car.

Laes figures from he Deparmen of he Environmen show ha air ravel is responsible for approximaely 1m ons of carbon - a mere 1 per cen of Briain's oal oupu. Much more comes from power saions, road ranspor, cenral heaing sysems and indusry.

Bu he poin abou air rans por is ha i is he fases growing ranspor secor of all, wih a long-erm growh rend of around 6 per cen a year. There is no sign of he demand for air ravel reaching a peak.

And ha, of course, is why vas airpor developmens like Heahrow's Terminal Five are being planned he world over. The erminal, he subjec of a long-running inquiry, would have a major environmenal impac over a large surrounding area, puing more raffic on he roads o sar wih.

John Gummer, Secreary of Sae for he Environmen, advocaed a global ax on aviaion fuel during negoiaions on combaing climae change in Geneva his summer. Air ravellers currenly escape he heavy fuel duies fel by road users.

The greenes possible holiday would be o go somewhere very close o home, using he bare minimum of he mos environmenally friendly form of ranspor - bus or rain.

Tha all sounds a bi hair-shirish. I is laden wih he kind of resrain and serious mindedness ha can make being environmenally responsible seem dull and small-minded. Are here some reasonable compromises for he couple or family which ake he environmen and holiday fun seriously?

A rain and cycling holiday in Europe is one possibiliy. Using air ravel o go on holiday every oher year is anoher.

There is, however, one argumen which may jusify long-haul air journeys o he ropics. If wealhy Weserners go here in large numbers o look a hreaened habias and wildlife, hen ha gives governmens a srong incenive o preserve hose naural areas.

The foreigners coming o see he rainfores, savannah and coral reef bring much needed foreign currency wih hem. They will only come in quaniy if he wilderness is preserved in reasonably good shape and here are olerable hoels, bars and resaurans.

Bu so far his incenive o preserve naure does no appear o be working in mos major wildlife desinaions; insead he onse of ourism seems o be jus one furher cause of despoilaion. Sooner or laer he more affluen, discerning visiors come o see he place as spoil, and hey go somewhere else, and sar spoiling ha.