what-is-sustainable-tourism

What Is Sustainable Tourism?

Jane Marsh - February 8, 2021

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Although COVID-19 has affected the tourism industry in more ways than one, once travel restrictions are lifted, you might want to consider traveling and touring sustainably. Sustainable tourism aims to create a balance between the environment, economy and society. This ensures long-lasting benefits for future generations. 

What is sustainable tourism anyway? It has three primary goals: 

  • Responsibly use the resources in the destination to maintain the environment and conserve its biodiversity.
  • Respect the host community. When you try to change the host community to be like your own, you’re no longer touring. 
  • Support the local economy to ensure a lasting industry and to provide income to local communities.

When you travel, you’re not just visiting a place. You’re using their resources, meeting new people, trying new cuisine and impacting the destination, whether in a good or bad way. 

Sustainable tourism practices ensure a better experience for both the tourist and the host community. When you travel, there are steps you can take to make your experience as sustainable as possible, so you can return again and again for years to come, and so others can have an enjoyable experience as well. 

Here are some ways you can travel sustainably the next time you tour.

1. Buy Local

What’s the point in going to a new place and just eating at a chain restaurant or purchasing souvenirs from a chain store? When you go somewhere, try to buy local as much as possible to support the economy. 

Try the local cuisine at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and get in touch with the local people to find places where you can purchase those locally-crafted or grown goods. When you support the local economy, you’re ensuring a future they can sustain as a tourist destination.

In addition to buying local, participate in local activities. Rent a bicycle to take your time exploring the country or city. Ask to fish or learn how to do a particular skill niche to the community. 

2. Find Sustainable Accommodations

You won’t know the sustainability of a hotel or hostel just by looking at it unless explicitly advertised. Call ahead of time to ask about their sustainability practices. Do they recycle? How much water is used? Is there an environmental policy in place? Was it built with sustainable materials? 

By asking these questions, you can make a more informed decision about your accommodations. Just because a hotel is sustainable doesn’t mean it isn’t luxurious! When a hotel’s management cares just as much about the environment as you do, they’ll ensure to make your stay feel welcome and eco-friendly. 

3. Pack Reusable Items

Be conscious of what you pack when you travel. When possible, pack reusable items. This includes a water bottle, straw, containers for souvenirs and anything else you need while touring. 

This limits the amount of waste you produce at the travel destination. If there are times you need to use single-use items, ensure to dispose of them properly, whether it’s through recycling or putting it in a trashcan. To further limit waste in the country, bring home any items you packed for your trip unless intentionally brought to stay at the location. 

4. Limit Energy and Water Use

Just as you would limit your energy and water use at home, do so abroad. Though after a day of traveling, you probably want to take a long, hot shower, avoid it. Consuming large amounts of water hurts the local economy more than you may think, especially if they have a low supply of fresh water to begin with. 

Additionally, conserve your energy. Turn off your room’s lights if you’re going to be out for the day and unplug any unnecessary items. 

5. Consider How You Travel

Sustainability at your destination is just as important as sustainability while you travel there and back. Choosing eco-friendly transportation options will help boost sustainable tourism. 

If you’re just traveling a few hours away, carpool, rent an electric car or take public transportation to limit carbon emissions. For more extended travel on land, take a train. It’s one of the most eco-friendly vehicles. If you must fly, choose flights that are one-way without stops. This will limit carbon emissions as well. While at your destination, opt for walking or bicycling whenever possible. 

How Will You Choose Sustainability the Next Time You Tour? 

To keep enjoying tourist destinations, people have to be sustainable. If resources are used up and the local economies are not supported, those places will quickly diminish. 

Be responsible the next time you travel, and encourage friends and family to do the same! 

About the author

Jane Marsh

Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.