What is Sustainable Tourism?
Sustainable tourism can be defined as tourism that takes into account the preservation and sustainability of the destinations we travel to. It can further be defined as tourism that respects and supports local cultures, environments and economies. Sustainable travel encompasses authenticity, in that the experience you receive gives you a greater connection to the places and the people in your destination country. Sustainable travel focuses on meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
According to EthicalTraveler.org, a non-profit organization that ranks the top 10 ethical destinations in the world each year, four core concepts are paramount:
- Environmental protection
- Social welfare
- Human rights
- Animal welfare
What sustainable travel is not is travel that sacrifices your personal comfort or safety, or which forces you to “rough it”. According to Rhiannon Batten, author of “Higher Ground: How to Travel Responsibly Without Roughing It”, travelling responsibly can be just as stylish and indulgent an experience as any other trip.
In the end, what it boils down to is respecting and supporting local cultures, environments and economies. In doing so, we ensure that the places we travel to will be kept pristine for locals and tourists alike for future generations.
What Types of Travel is NOT Sustainable?
A couple of good examples of unsustainable travel include all-inclusive resorts and cruises. These are discussed in greater detail in our sustainable travel guide.
These holidays and others often have certain things in common, such as: significant environmental impacts; negative cultural impacts; lack of benefits to locals; natural resource consumption; exploitation of animals, women and children; human rights violations; and the displacement of indigenous communities.
Many holidays are fraught with these and other issues, but continue in today’s modern tourism industry. Worst yet, many of us may not even be aware that it’s happening right in front of our eyes. Sustainable tourism means understanding that these issues exist and that we do our part to avoid those pitfalls, all while on the journey of our dreams.
Why Sustainable Travel?
Environmental benefits aside, sustainable travel also respects and supports local economies. As such, when you travel responsibly, that inherently means you are helping small businesses, helping local vendors, or employing local guides; as opposed to spending your travel dollars on large multinational companies and organizations. It is vital that while we travel, that our travel dollars stay within the country, and thus local economy, as much as possible.
According to EthicalTraveler.org, “by visiting these countries, we can use our economic leverage to reward good works and support best practices”.
But the biggest beneficiary to sustainable tourism, is you, the traveler! Getting closer to the culture of your destination means you may get a deeper and more meaningful experience than you might expect; one that may profoundly change your world. Maya Angelou once said, “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
How do I Travel More Responsibly?
There are a number of ways you can travel more responsibly, and where you go and what you do will likely dictate that. We recommend checking out our sustainable travel guide to learn about what to do in various countries as well as other great sustainable travel advice.
For more on how to travel responsibly, check out our sustainable travel guide here.