The word Sustainable Tourism seems to be on the mouth of many, but what is really sustainable tourism? And how can you practice it? Let’s find out together!
We’ve written about it many times and more and more people talk about it, but do we know exactly what sustainable tourism is? Maybe not, so we present you our practical guide to this way of traveling.
Let’s start with the definition given by the same World Tourism Organization:
Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.
Tourism that Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
Tourism that respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
Sustainable tourism therefore looks to the future: it is a set of practices and choices that do not harm the environment and promote lasting economic development, not harming local social processes but contributing to improving the quality of life of residents.
Economics, ethics and environment are the basic principles on which sustainable tourism is based.
Why sustainable tourism is so important
Today tourism is one of the main economic activities in the world, probably second only to oil, and employs 1 to 15 people around the world. At the same time, the tourist industry is one of the most polluting. It is evident, therefore, that this is an ambivalent phenomenon: tourism on one hand can contribute to the socio-economic development of the countries, but at the same time it can become the cause of loss of local identities and environmental degradation.
Tourism, especially mass and luxury one, can lead to an extreme contradiction, almost a paradox: tourists can destroy what they wanted to see. But not with sustainable tourism, the only one able to preserve cultures, environment and economies.
How to become a responsible traveler
The responsible traveler, who chooses to live a sustainable tourism, is not the one who dives up to comforts, he is not the one with the backpack ready to deal with improvised paths, nor is he who chooses to experience volunteering abroad. The travel, one of the greatest aspirations of man, has many nuances: each one travels for different reasons. We travel to know, to explore, to rest, to unplug. Any motivation, any type of trip, with any destination and any budget, can be sustainable.
To be a responsible traveler means first of all be aware. Aware of what’s around us and of our impact on the environment. And of course you have to make choices based on this new awareness.
10 Tips for practicing sustainable tourism
Maybe there is not a valid formula for everyone, but let’s try to list some of the choices to make before and during the trip that can make you a responsible traveler:
When possible, avoid airplanes and prefer trains, electric vehicles and shared car drive
Choose an eco-friendly accommodation that uses renewable sources and is careful about water saving (find out how much CO2 you can save by choosing a green facility)
Remember also during your holiday that natural resources such as water and energy are non-renewable assets
Respect the surrounding environment: follow prepared paths, do not throw trash at the beach or in the mountains and do not take away as souvenirs sand or other natural elements
Bring a water bottle with you, use reusable containers, avoid buying plastic bottles or other disposable products
Choose accommodation facilities and restaurants run by locals
Buy organic and local produce
Remember that a foreign country is not designed for you, but for its inhabitants
A tourist is a guest, and as such you have to respect the culture
Slow down, discover the places in small steps, whenever you can move on foot by bicycle.
The future of Sustainable Tourism
A few years ago, sustainable tourism represented a small niche market, unknown to most. Now it grows exponentially and are more and more people who prefer, for example, to book an eco-sustainable accommodation. There is still much to be done and each of us can do their part to make tourism less and less polluting and damaging.
The UN World Tourism Organization has chosen a perfect hashtag for the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, which sums up the true meaning of responsible travel: #travelrespectenjoy.
Sustainable tourism is still a challenge, but it is the only viable route. To save the planet and to improve the economic and social prospects.
Cover image: Lagorai, Trentino, Italy, ph. by Marta Micheli, premio “Viaggia Scatta e Vinci”