As an eco-conscious traveler, you will want to try to leave only a minimal carbon footprint when traveling and always try your best to do what’s right for the planet. While you may already be familiar with the term “sustainable tourism,” you may have some doubts as to what it actually comprises and how you can ensure your own travels are sustainable. Is there more to eco-friendly tourism than not littering and not flying? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Sustainable Tourism?
Sustainable tourism sustains the environment and improves the welfare of local communities. It aims to minimize the negative impact tourism has on the ecosystem and on cultural heritage.
Why Isn’t Traditional Tourism Sustainable?
Traditional tourism is not sustainable because it leads to the over-development of tourist-friendly communities. Certain cities, villages, beaches, and other popular destinations suffer heavily when crowds come to stay for short periods of time. The influx typically leads to heavier pollution, a rise in crime, and local ecosystems can’t cope with the massive number of visitors.
While tourism does help underdeveloped communities, it can also cause a rise in rent and other commodities that locals can’t afford. Cheap wages and worker exploitation are also an issue.
The mode of traveling also often contributes to a rise in global pollution. The same goes for the mass production of touristy items like souvenirs.
Why Is Sustainable Tourism on the Rise?
As we become more aware of the impact our actions have on the planet, we begin to look for ways to slow global warming and do what we can to save the environment.
Sustainable tourism has risen out of our need to conserve our natural resources and avoid the degradation of local ecosystems. We now think twice before jumping on a plane or purchasing a local mass-produced trinket.
We have also started to yearn for a return to nature. Life in bustling cities is harmful to both our mental and physical health, and we have actively begun to seek out retreats that let us escape from the concrete.
Why Is Sustainable Tourism Important?
Sustainable tourism has a positive impact on local economies. It promotes the creation of diverse tourism-related local businesses that can be run by local entrepreneurs, who can offer transportation, accommodation, or dining that is more authentic. This naturally makes them more prosperous and makes for a more stable local economy.
It also protects our natural resources. Tourists who think sustainably are unlikely to leave garbage behind or do anything that will harm the area they are staying in, as they understand how important it is to preserve it.
Moreover, sustainable tourism promotes environmental and social awareness. It teaches travelers about what they can do to conserve an area or empower a local society.
What Does Sustainable Tourism Look Like?
Sustainable tourism can take on many forms. It is predicted that nature-oriented travel will become even more popular, so we can expect more eco-adventure trips, safaris, and conservation-based vacations to take center stage.
Certain locations are already proving to be of particular interest to sustainable travelers. Machu Picchu, Yellowstone National Park, the Serengeti, and the Amazon are all on the radar of people who want to reconnect with nature, have a vacation like no other, and do something good for the planet.
Slow tourism is also becoming more popular. Unlike traditional tourism, which has you rushing madly from one site to another, slow travel allows you to experience a destination at a slow pace. That way, you can learn more about the culture, immerse yourself in local traditions, and connect with the locals. It also means traveling on land rather than by air.
Exploring cities or locations via golf cart is also on the rise. Any golf cart can be made street-legal, and since it’s much more sustainable than renting a car, it’s a great way to keep pollution down to a minimum without having to walk everywhere. It lets tourists see more at a slower pace and without adding to the noise and air pollution.
Eco lodging is another form of sustainable tourism that aims to reduce emissions via strict energy efficiency measures and recycling programs. It often comes with the option of renting a bike as a means of transportation. Most notably, it fosters a communal spirit.
Sustainable tourism is here to stay, and as more and more people become aware of its importance, we can expect to see even more options and destinations become popular. If you want to do your bit for the planet, go on a trip to plant a tree, volunteer for a wildlife or conservation organization, and enjoy some time in nature. You may come home tired in body, but your mind and soul will be recharged like never before.
- On our site: Sustainable Travel in New South Wales Australia
-All photos as credited. Cover photo by Meina Yin.