With climate change and overtourism affecting our daily lives, sustainability and mindfulness have entered the travel discussion. Acting in ways to better our communities has shifted from environmental concern to activism in specific spaces, including the tourism industry. So, precisely what is sustainable travel? In its basic form, sustainable tourism is travel that has a positive long-term and short-term impact on a local community, environment, and economy.
Sustainable travel has the potential to empower local communities while also protecting the environment. With nearly 1.5 billion travelers worldwide, we must work together to promote more meaningful travel practices. Read on to find out everything on sustainable tourism.
What is sustainable tourism?
According to the UNWTO definition, it is tourism in which the needs of today are not prioritized over those of tomorrow. Furthermore, because travel experiences include diverse activities and industries, all sectors and stakeholders must work together to ensure success.
The purpose of sustainable tourism is to use natural resources better while also benefiting tradition and wildlife conservation, economy, and rural communities. That means that a responsible tourism industry needs to provide more benefits than negative impacts, considering the needs of visitors and locals, resulting in a mutual “give and take” relationship.
Types of sustainable tourism
Sustainable tourism is built on primarily socio-cultural justice, economic development, and environmental integrity. However, several types of sustainable tourism are so closely related that they are frequently confused. For example, “eco-sustainable tourism” implies two distinct concepts that can be subdivided into two terms. Therefore, studying more about the similarities and differences between these ideas can be beneficial for all stakeholders.
Most of these concepts oppose commercial forms of mass tourism, which are more likely to cause environmental damage, cultural loss, negative economic impacts, and overtourism.
What are the types of sustainable tourism?
Here we explain some types of tourism;
Ecotourism refers to green tourism to areas of natural beauty, with emphasis on ecological conservation. It aims to protect the environment, find ways to benefit local communities while respecting their culture, and educate travelers on the value of responsible travel. Energy conservation, water conservation, and protecting wildlife and indigenous peoples are critical.
Ethnotourism / Rural Tourism
Rural tourism is centered on rural areas rather than urban areas. It ranges from hiking and camping trips to agritourism, which allows tourists to participate in farming and learn about agricultural lifestyles. Finally, rather than cities, tourist hotspots, and built-up areas, this type of tourism focuses on natural features such as forests, hills, mountains, fields, and waterfalls.
Tourism in the Community
When a local community invites tourists to visit and provides lodging, this is called community tourism. This ensures that the local community retains control over their tourism industry, making critical decisions and imposing their constraints. Community tourism is often based on real-life experiences in developing areas, and unique or unusual lodging is a regular feature.
Soft tourism is travel that prioritizes local experiences, education, cultural respect, and avoiding tourist traps. Hard tourism, also known as mass tourism, is large-scale and focuses on famous tourist attractions and destinations. Companies that follow soft tourism principles prioritize more extended stays, local job opportunities, and anti-overcrowding measures.
Why is the sustainable tourism trend important?
The approach aims to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives while preserving opportunities for the future. Studying more about the positive impacts for each actor in the industry helps to find an answer to this intricate question. While tourism can harm natural milieus, cultures, and local communities, it can also provide significant benefits. So, why is sustainable tourism essential? And what are the perks of responsible travel for each actor?
Another significant advantage of the sustainable tourism trend is the emphasis it applies on environmental protection. Sustainable hotels and other forms of lodging will use eco-friendly materials and take steps to cut waste produced to improve the impact on carbon footprint.
Using a bicycle instead of a car could be a sustainable mode of transportation. Meanwhile, sustainable restaurants will source food locally and may offer more vegan options.
Looking Out for Wildlife
Wildlife conservation is a vital component of sustainable tourism and is one of the most significant benefits of the practice. When decisions are made to the needs of local wildlife, natural habitats are preserved, and animals can thrive. Sustainable tourism allows wild animals to remain in the wild rather than being kept captive and used as tourist attractions.
Supporting Local People
When tourists make a conscious decision to use sustainable tourism companies and global governments take steps to assist those companies in the industry, they all contribute to the well-being of local people. Sustainable tourism can help the local economy by creating jobs, funding local projects, and stimulating the local economy. However, mass tourism is often more exploitative and can inadvertently harm local culture and indigenous people.
Educational components are associated with concepts like sustainable and environmental tourism, which can assist tourists in changing their attitudes and behaviors over time. That is vital because the greater the demand for sustainable tourism, the greater the pressure on businesses and gov’ts to deliver what clients want, leading to positive and long-term change.
Sustainable tourism has a much longer time horizon than other types of tourism, prioritizing today’s needs over future generations and their needs. One significant advantage of sustainable travel is that it brings businesses, tourists, and gov’ts together to develop long-term strategies for the tourism industry, local communities, tourists, and the entire planet.
What is the carbon footprint of the tourism industry?
Tourism accounts for about 8% of global carbon emissions. Various activities contribute to tourism’s carbon footprint, from flights and boat rides to souvenirs and lodging. Most of this footprint is produced by visitors from high-income countries, with Americans top of the list. The environmental footprint will grow with the number of people who can afford to travel.
According to a new index, Sweden is the most sustainable country for travel. Finland (second) and Austria (third) follow the Scandinavian country in Euromonitor’s Top Countries for Sustainable Travel (third). Estonia and Norway round out the top five. Other countries that have embraced sustainable tourism are; Slovakia, France, Iceland and Latvia, Bolivia, Switzerland, Lithuania, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand, and Canada.
We may never achieve complete sustainability, but we can certainly strive to improve incrementally, increasing our positive impact on the planet. Adopting a sustainable tourism strategy is critical to the success of the tourism industry, and there are numerous opportunities for it to grow into something more beneficial to visitors, locals, and the entire world. As a result, everyone can become more responsible and contribute to positive change.
This article was initially published by Trip Dhow.
Pearce Kibaale is a freelance writer, content creator, and CEO of Trip Dhow. Pearce is a travel expert and has been a content creator for various travel affiliates.