A view of the woods looking upwards toward the sky

Intro to Sustainable Tourism

Across the globe, Sustainability is finally taking the main stage of people’s minds, and we are thrilled to open a new chapter where articles focused on a better and greener future and the efforts involved will be published monthly for you to discover.

As our lives are returning to normal, tourism is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. Current tourism habits will no longer be sustainable as they cause too much damage to the environment, local communities, and the earth’s natural resources. This makes sustainable tourism essential for the long-term viability of the entire travel industry. By prioritizing sustainable tourism, governments, travel companies, airlines, hotels, restaurants, and travelers can help ensure that tourism can continue for years to come.

Can we keep these waters crystal clear? | © 9MOT/Shutterstock

What is sustainable tourism?

Sustainable tourism refers to types of travel that consider the environmental, social, and economic impacts of tourism and make appropriate adjustments to minimize these negative impacts. It takes into account the needs of travelers but also the needs of host communities, local businesses, and nature.

This could mean adopting more sustainable transportation methods, staying in greener accommodations, eating local and ethical food, and avoiding harmful activities. Sustainable tourism can refer to leisure, business, or event travel, but also to city and countryside trips to visit friends and family.

An alternative to mass tourism

Sustainable tourism can help to reduce negative impacts, which are due in particular to mass tourism. It offers a real alternative when it comes to continuing to discover foreign countries and learning about new cultures.

What is the goal of sustainable tourism? 

The ultimate goal of sustainable tourism is to reduce the impact of tourism on local communities and the environment and to make the long-term future of travel more sustainable. This means making the best use of resources to avoid overconsumption, contributing to nature conservation, and making a conscious effort to respect and preserve local traditions and heritage. In addition, sustainable tourism aims to provide economic and social gains to local communities.

Getting personal with the wild | © InnaFelker/Shutterstock

Why is sustainable tourism important, and what are its benefits?

The concept of sustainable tourism is incredibly important because while travel can bring economic opportunities to a local area and create jobs for industry, it can also have negative consequences, including overuse of resources, over-tourism, displacement of wildlife, and damage to local culture while contributing to greenhouse gas emissions or local pollution. Companies, tourism employees, and tourists must recognize some of the main advantages of sustainable tourism: 

1. It protects the wildlife

  • An important component of sustainable tourism is the preservation of wildlife, and this is among the most significant benefits associated with the practice. When decisions are made with the needs of local wildlife in mind, it prevents the destruction of natural habitats and allows wildlife to thrive. Crucially, sustainable tourism also allows animals to remain in the wild rather than being kept in captivity and used as tourist attractions.
Living surrounded by nature and knowing you are not harming it | © Merdecess/Shutterstock

2. It preserves the environment

  • Another key value of sustainable tourism is the focus on environmental protection. Sustainable hotels and other accommodations will use environmentally friendly materials and take steps to limit the amount of waste or resources they produce. Sustainable transportation might consist of renting an e-car or a bicycle instead of using a regular car. Sustainable restaurants, meanwhile, will source food locally and may offer more vegetarian and vegan options. Experiencing nature up close naturally plays an important role; however, we must not harm it! New technologies can help to use resources (such as drinking water) as sparingly as possible.

Interact with the locals to understand and support them | © TourRadar

3. It supports local communities

  • When tourists make the conscious decision to turn to sustainable tourism businesses, and when governments take action to help these businesses as well, they all contribute to the well-being of local people. Sustainable tourism can fund local projects, create jobs and boost the regional economy. In contrast, mass tourism without sustainability is often more exploitative and can unintentionally harm local culture and indigenous peoples.

Floating icebergs in Iceland’s Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon at sunset. | © Vadim Lavra/Shutterstock

4. It has a long-term focus and can change people’s habits and behavior

  • Ideas such as sustainable and responsible tourism have significant educational components that can help tourists adjust their attitudes and behaviors over the longer term. This is important because the greater the demand for sustainable tourism, the greater the pressure on businesses and governments to deliver what customers want. This can lead to positive and lasting change, and we are part of that movement.
  • Bringing together big and small businesses, tourists, and governments to develop strategies focused on the long-term future of the tourism industry, local communities, and the planet as a whole. For sustainable tourism to be possible, businesses and other key stakeholders in the local tourism industry must consciously build, maintain and manage their sustainability efforts. 

Beautiful view overlooking the Waipi'o Valley on the Big Island, Hawaii.
Admire the natural beauty of Waipi’o Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii | © Graig Zethner/Shutterstock

TourRadar has set a goal that by 2030 all active tour operators will have sustainability initiatives in place. By leveraging our position at the center of its ecosystem, we can educate and drive sustainable initiatives, create a community around these shared goals, promote what our partners are doing, share our knowledge and network, and raise awareness about sustainable travel.

Our Adventure begins here! Head over to TourRadar to book yours!

This article was written by Sofya Muhrer-Muromets and edited by Felipe Rosen Mosquera.

Sofya is the Sustainability Coordinator at TourRadar. She loves spending her free time outdoors, engaging in activities like hiking, skiing, or gardening. And her loyal dog, Mischka, accompanies her everywhere she goes.

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