What Is Sustainable Tourism and What Does It Mean For Our Future?

Sustainable tourism has come to public attention in recent years. The definition of ‘sustainable’ means for something to be maintained at a certain level or standard. Sustainability is practiced in many sectors to encourage fair trade, preserve energy, and preserve environmental, cultural and and economical factors. 

These sectors include: fashion, human and animal habitation, food production, travel, energy, technology and more. The manner in which we use and produce materials has an adverse effect on our environment. So, let’s talk about what sustainable tourism means and how it can make a difference to our planet.

What Is Sustainable Tourism?

Sustainable tourism is a method of travelling to a new destination and respecting its culture, environment, and people. As many of the generation wish to voyage and indulge in new environments, the growth has an impact on the world in which we live. For example, people choose to stay in opulent hotels and fly via private jets.

These methods of temporary travel and living impact the local culture and future generations. Sustainable tourism wishes to have a positive effect on the way people explore new areas. These include: protecting habitats where new hotels are built and creating eco-friendly modes of transport instead of bulky cruise ships.

The industry wishes to respect the local culture by not changing its way of living for tourists. More specifically, visitor profits are now being channeled into nature conversations and local interests.

The ethos of sustainable tourism wishes to balance the expectations of tourists with the environmental factors of the destination. For instance, Las Vegas is a renowned destination site for millions of visitors every year. But unsustainable tourism has had a terrible on 500,000 Vegas residents who are struggling to access water and energy.

In other locations, many also suggest that unsustainable tourism has added to the build-up of plastic bottles and straws in our oceans. Regardless of the environment or destination, it's clear that the effects of tourism can be detrimental.

Sustainable tourism reduces these fears by putting positive actions in place around the world. Thanks to its take off in the early 1990s, there are now more green-energy hotels and teachings about ecotourism to benefit social equality and the planet.

Examples of Unsustainable Tourism and Making a Difference

Below are some examples of unsustainable tourism and ways you can adapt your behaviour to make a difference. Be honest with yourself to assess whether you could stand to adapt your habits to be more sustainable.

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1. Choosing a larger suite than needed for you and your guests.

You can still travel luxuriously, whilst reducing the size of the accommodation in which you stay. The larger the room, the more energy it requires to light it and heat it up. Do you and your significant other actually need the five room suite?

Instead, reduce the size of the room. You can still sleep in a king-size bed with panoramic views of the city, whilst not wasting as many resources to live there. The likes of Airbnb offer bespoke hospitality for temporary visitors. Choosing to use their service could be the difference between houses being replaced by hotels and saving communities.  

2. Ordering too much food, regularly.

We all like to get our money’s worth, and take pictures of huge, lavish meals when given the opportunity. But asking for a smaller portion, and not ordering as much food will help to limit waste while also helping your waistline.

3. Not appreciating and respecting new environments.

Many of us are so excited when we come in contact with an iconic building. Touching and mistreating buildings and natural areas has detrimental effects on local residents. Mistreating lawns and tearing down plants to take home creates a lot of additional work. Not to mention, disrespecting your surroundings aids to less tourists visiting, and consequently, reduced profits for the community.

Can Luxury Travel Be Sustainable?

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The question has to be asked: Can I still travel in luxury whilst adopting sustainable tourism? You definitely can. This new eco-friendly version of travelling is not a fad, but rather a lifestyle. Luxury travel can be compatible with sustainable tourism.

While we don't dismiss that holidays are for relaxing, it is not to say that you shouldn't venture responsibly. With a growth of the luxury travel market, travelers are shifting towards authentic and cultural changes anyway.

The most common change is visiting third-world countries to give back to the community, rather than take from it. Thanks to the increasing awareness of camps and programmes, nearly anyone can partake in volunteering a service to help a community.

Hotel Choice

There are so many hotels boasting economical factors. Ensure that you not only research its rating, but also how it reduces energy waste. Investigate nearby hotels in the area and spend some time looking into their ethos.

It might be a suggestion to stay further away from the city itself to support local economy. No matter where you’re heading, there are umpteen eco-friendly hotels to choose from which offer a super chic feel.  

For those in search of ultimate sustainability, try staying in an eco-pod or treetop canopy to reduce environmental impacts. We do suggest looking into certifications such as Rainforest Alliance or Green Globe. Don’t just take a green promise at face value, without verifying.

Investing in a property abroad is also an excellent way to travel sustainably and live the life of luxury too. Whilst you're away from the property, another resident or tourist stays, which means no more accommodations have to be built.

Area Options

Your desire for premium travel can also be combined with keeping things green by exploring new grounds. Don’t follow where everyone else is going, but try areas which need a helping hand in manual labour.

Dig into new regions where tourists don’t typically explore and create an awareness that some places need tourist profits. Or perhaps you may wish to travel closer to home to reduce emissions from planes. The key point here is that you don’t need to sacrifice travelling in luxury as you’re making an exceptional difference.

What are Practical Ways to Put Sustainable Tourism Into Practice?

Tourism can be made sustainable in a multitude of ways to benefit residents without taking away the fun and experience of holidaying. When travelling, how often do you think about the impact your being there has on that culture? It’s time to start making a difference and applying these easy-to-follow strategies.

1. Minimise Your Waste

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Credit: Flickr, Daniel Cascaddan

It’s a process everyone should follow in their own culture too. When packing to jet off, try to limit the non-recycled materials you take with you. It can be tempting to throw away half a bottle of shampoo because you don’t want to lug it home. However, that plastic might not be recycled if there are not facilities to do so.

While that's simply one example, there are several ways in which you can easily minimise waste while on vacation. For instance, limit plastic waste by buying a reusable water bottle to carry with you. When in a restaurant, refuse a plastic straw.

To conserve water supply, there are additional measures you can implement. Don’t ask for ice if you don’t need it to limit water waste. Surge the urge to take a longer shower than usual just because you don’t have to pay for the water bill. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.

Also be conscious of your gut. Opt for smaller-sized meals to satisfy your appetite without having heaps of food leftover to be thrown away. You may even wish to take the leftovers away with you and donate to a local homeless shelter.

2. Support Local Economy

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Visit independent shops and restaurants to support local economy rather than well-known chain brands. Make a choice to research tourist stores and places to visit before your travels to best prepare. This is also a great approach to get the real experience of a new culture. Doing this small gesture can make the difference between a local store going out of business, and residents having a life-long career. 

3. Opt For Public Transportation

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In an unfamiliar place, it can be tempting to hail a taxi. Make the resolution to walk and embark on a peaceful journey to your destination. Not only is this excellent exercise, it also helps to create awareness of new sights. Limiting your taxi use and opting for public transportation is an excellent approach to reducing carbon emissions. The options don’t stop there, as you could also rent an electric car.

3. Stay In Eco-Boutique Hotels

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Credit: Flickr, Raymond Bosma

The rise of tourism has seen many hotels investing in eco-friendly facilities. Expect to hear about recycled water, reduced room service, and energy-saving lightbulbs. There are a growing number of eco-friendly luxury hotels which boast solar panels, utilize natural lighting, and are built from natural, local materials.

How Are You Holidaying Responsibly?

If people aren’t on board with sustainable tourism, the beautiful destinations we love to visit will soon be unrecognizable. In early 2011, the Taj Mahal announced that it will soon be closing due to its rotten infrastructure. Air pollution and human interaction is causing its foundation to destroy.

The consequences are detrimental and serious, but there are also many positives. For example, many European holidaymakers now book eco-friendly hotels. Additionally, many airlines are now taking into consideration its carbon intensity and switching to carbon-efficient designs. The future is looking very bright if more people come together.

What are some ways you’re adding to sustainable tourism? Let us know in the comments, and help to make a positive change.  

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