What is Sustainable Travel?


Sustainable travel is becoming a popular venture where tourists get inspired to partake the eco-tours, which are fun and adventurous.
In the last few years, the term “sustainable” has been increasingly popular. Businesses want to be more sustainable: motels want to be “sustainable”, tour operators want to be “sustainable” and travelers are increasingly concerned with only spending their money on “sustainable” adventures.

Sustainable Travel should:

  • Maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
  • Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities and conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values.
  • Providing socio-economic benefits, including stable employment and income opportunities, and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty relief.

The Three Pillars of Sustainability

The three pillars of sustainability are a powerful tool for defining the complete sustainability problem. This consists of at least the economic, social, and environmental pillars. If any pillar is weak then the system as a whole is unsustainable.

1. The Environment Pillar

The environmental pillar often gets the most attention. As sustainable travelers, we can have a simple positive impact just by carrying our own reusables. We can look for hotels and restaurants, which recycle and are built from sustainable materials.

Companies have found that a beneficial impact on the planet can also have a positive financial impact. Lessening the amount of material used in packaging usually reduces the overall spending on those materials
Tourism development can put enormous pressure on an area and lead to impacts such as soil erosion, increased pollution, discharges into the sea, natural habitat loss increased pressure on endangered species and heightened vulnerability to forest fires. It often puts a strain on water resources, and it can force local populations to compete for the use of critical resources.

Reducing the negative effects on the environment and wildlife includes keeping the Carbon footprint as low as possible, using water wisely, not leaving plastic waste, not harming the flora and fauna.

2. The Social Pillar

A sustainable business should have the support and approval of its employees, stakeholders and the community it operates in.
Responsible travelers can look for opportunities to be involved in community projects that tourists can take part in and support a non-profit organization that operates independently from government support.

Between 2016 and 2018, sustainable, responsible and impact investing grew at a more than 38 percent rate, rising from $8.7 trillion in 2016 to $12 trillion in 2018, according to the U.S. Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

3. The Economic Pillar

Green travel trend continues to gain momentum, according to the global Sustainable Travel Report by, with a large majority of global travelers (87%) stating that they want to travel sustainably,

Sustainable Travel to reduce carbon footprint

Photo credit: Source: Lenzen et al. (2018) Total residence-based accounting (RBA) carbon footprint in CO2e for different countries in 2013 for international (blue) and domestic (yellow) holidays.
The chart above displays the total carbon footprint in 2013 for international (blue) and domestic (yellow) holidays taken by each country’s residents.

Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them.

Except for the term sustainable tourism, there are two other types of tourism that are also focused on creating tourism in harmony with the environment and social-cultural aspects

  • Responsible tourism – sustainable tourism is often also referred as responsible tourism, which has been adopted as a term used by industry who feel that word sustainability is overused and not understood. Responsible tourism is any form of tourism that can be consumed in a more responsible way. Responsible tourism puts more emphasis on the responsibility of tourism industry through generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities, improving working conditions, involving local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances, making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage. It also strives to minimize negative social, economic and environmental impacts. According to its definition Responsible Tourism is about making “better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit”: in that order.
  • Ecotourism – According to the International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism is defined as: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”
    Ecotourism should provide direct financial benefits for conservation and local people and is focused on the conservation of natural resources.

Why Sustainable Travel is important?

Tourism brings tremendous economic positive outcomes: it is one of the world’s most significant sources of economic outcomes and employment. But tourism can have very opposite effects according to the way activities are managed. Managed well, tourism can play a positive role in the socio, cultural, economical, environmental and political development of the destination and as such represents a significant development opportunity for many countries and communities. Unresponsible tourism development can lead to very damageable impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution, and social systems. The need for sustainable planning and management is imperative for the industry to survive as a whole.

Next time you’re traveling and trying to decide which attraction, destinations or hotels, ask yourself these questions:

  • Which one is more sustainable?
  • Which one is locally-owned?
  • Which one is more eco-friendly?
  • Which one employs local people?
  • Which one contributes to the local economy?

Read more about sustainable travel in our section.

If you are a traveler and are interested in eco-travels, you can find more inspirations from our posts or from the ideas in the MotherEarthLiving’s article.

Watch this short animated video about sustainable travel.

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