Tourism is essential to boosting the economy, as it creates thousands of jobs, boosts infrastructure, and develops a sense of community and cultural exchange between foreigners and citizens. However, it’s also responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. As borders reopen and the tourism industry starts to pick up again, it’s important that we take this opportunity to re-evaluate our travel practices. Here’s how you can promote sustainable tourism on your next trip.
Travel to Less-Visited Destinations
Out of all the places in the world, 80% of tourists visit only 20% of destinations, causing a huge over-tourism problem. Before the pandemic, Venice alone received over 30 million tourists per year, and as a result has experienced increased flooding caused by soil erosion and large cruise ships. You’ll find that this is also the case for cities like Paris, Rome, and Amsterdam. On the flip side, places like Alta, Berlin, and Dominica have been hard-hit by the pandemic, and the local economy could actually benefit from increased tourism. Thus, picking your destination is crucial if you want to travel sustainably and responsibly.
Invest in Sustainable Travel Gear
The sustainable tourism revolution is also dependent on all the little choices we make. A traveler produces 1kg of waste per day on average. There are over 1.4 billion tourists in the world, which really puts that amount into perspective. While single use plastics and travel kits can keep our luggage light, they're unfortunately against the very essence of sustainability. Investing in reusable bottles, cutlery, metal straws, food containers, and other sustainable travel gear will greatly reduce your waste— and if you travel often, can also help you save money.
Get Involved and Educated
Some long-time travelers can feel compelled to do something more for the planet. Brian T. Mullis, for example, owned and operated an ecotourism and adventure travel company before becoming one of the world's foremost experts on sustainable travel. There are many such companies across the world that you can get involved in. The Maldives Coral Line Project, Clean Cornwall, and Plastic Free Seas are all examples of successful ocean care initiatives that started with only a small group of concerned tourists, marine biologists, and locals.
With sustainability becoming such a huge part of modern society, you can also get involved by educating yourself. Whether through volunteering or taking a course in sustainability, you have many options. And with more campuses offering online courses on sustainability that are 100% coursework, you can travel and study at the same time. This way you can directly apply what you learn to make the world a better place.
Support the Right Businesses
One thing that comes with over-tourism is the spread of unsustainable and unethical business practices. For instance, mass tourist demands for traditionally-made products can lead to the increased production of downgraded “replicas” and “fakes” as souvenirs. This may also exhaust local supplies of raw materials, or take away from the livelihoods of many locals. Furthermore, hotels and Airbnb’s are constantly being established, which can greatly affect forests, beaches, and the natural resources around tourist areas. We can all do our part by doing our research and supporting local shops, vendors, and indigenous populations when traveling.
Spread Awareness of Regulations and Laws
Lastly, it’s also important that we are aware of the regulations and laws surrounding sustainable tourism so that we can support long-term change on a systematic level. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) created the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Program, which aims to mainstream sustainable consumption and production in tourism and addresses the challenges of pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change. Learning about local initiatives and policies will ensure our compliance and support to the various destinations we’re headed to.
Thoughtful Travel for a Better Future
Sustainable travel habits aren’t formed overnight; they are enforced through constant awareness and practice. The next time you travel, try making a list out of the tips we’ve given here and work your way up from there. The sooner you develop sustainable travel habits, the longer we'll all be able to enjoy our amazing planet.
About the Author
|Ellie Denver is a freelance writer who's passionate about travel and sustainable living. Her home base is in Jacksonville, Florida, but she’s always out and about when she gets the chance. She especially loves hiking, snorkeling, and finding new local tourist destinations to support.|