Transforming Tourism for a More Sustainable FuturePaula Golka
Looking forward to the next vacation and exploring new countries and places is what makes life enjoyable for the most of us. The pandemic put an involuntary pause on global travel, and now that the world is slowly able to go back to normal, we should not forget about the impact travelling can have on the environment. In this article, we want to explore what sustainable tourism is and ways travelers can reduce their environmental impact when exploring new destinations.
The UNWTO defines sustainable tourism as tourism that takes into account its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts, by meeting the needs of visitors, professionals, the environment, and host communities. This form of tourism, deeply rooted in the trend of sustainable development, takes several forms of alternative tourism such as:
- Eco-tourism: a form of tourism that respects the environment and the well-being of the people and is practiced exclusively in natural environments
- Slow tourism: modelled on the pattern of the “slow food” philosophy, and which advocates the sustainability of territories. This type of tourism is characterized by taking the time to discover the places visited at one’s own pace and in a much more spontaneous way
- Participatory or solidarity tourism: aims to build relationships of solidarity between the host populations and travelers, who actively participate in local life.
Choosing alternative ways of transportation
Many consumers are not aware of the environmental costs of air travel. Low flight prices are attractive but don’t reflect the actual environmental impact. Aircraft emissions are heavy polluters and contribute greatly to global CO2 emissions. The airline industry is responsible for nearly 3% of the world’s CO2 emissions and statistics show that carbon emissions from the airline industry have increased by 75 percent from 1990 to 2012 (David Suzuki Foundation, 2022). Further, while many other industries are trying to lower their carbon footprint, the airline industry is predicted to be responsible for a quarter of all emissions in 2050.
For most people it is not an option to give up flying all together. However, you can think about whether it is always necessary to fly when travelling. Especially in Europe, short distance flights are often unnecessary. The railway system is a convenient and environmentally friendly option that can take you to your next vacation destination.
A general rule is, that the shorter the distance you travel from home, the lower your overall carbon footprint.
Picking a sustainable destination
Not only the way you travel has an impact on the environment, but also where you choose to stay and the way the local governing body chooses to manage sustainability. Experts in the field on sustainable travel have put together a list on the 100 most sustainable destinations.
The evaluation of each destination’s sustainability practices takes place by an international pool of experts. Some of the criteria for evaluation are wastewater treatment, use of renewable energy, noise, and animal welfare but also light pollution, nature conservation & tourism monitoring are considered. In 2021 countries from all over the world have made it on the list from Argentina, Australia, South Korea to Germany and Sweden. Whether you prefer a tropical beach vacation or a hike in the Alps, there is a sustainable destination for everyone on the list.
Stay in a locally owned accommodation
It is always better to support the local people and avoid large resorts that often have a negative impact on the environment due to high energy and water consumption. All-inclusive packages are often wasteful, and tourists have little incentive to support local restaurants, bars, and guides. In addition, large resorts are often owned by foreign corporations and don’t support the local economy.
Overall, it is important to be mindful when choosing an accommodation. We as consumers control the market and therefore have an influence on the sustainability of businesses.