Sustainable Tourism: What is it and Why Do We Need it?

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Sustainable Tourism: What is it and Why Do We Need it?

We all love to travel and explore new destinations. Traveling the world is a dream of many, but
how many people actually think about the effect these travels leave on the countries they visit?
And not just the countries, but the world too. I’m gonna admit I didn’t think about it nearly
enough before. I just wanted to explore everything that was within my reach, not really thinking
about anything other than making myself happy (and how to fully use my vacation days).

I was always trying to be more eco-friendly in everyday life, and on travels, I would incorporate
all those same ideas without thinking it might take a different approach. I would take my tote bag
and go exploring. Oh, but how delusional I was thinking that just being there is a way of
supporting locals and local communities.

So in order for you to not make the mistakes I did, here is everything that can help you better
understand what sustainability in traveling is all about.

What Is Sustainable Tourism?

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Sustainable tourism is a way of environmental traveling where the main focus is on exploring
and supporting the local environment instead of exploiting it. But things are far from being that
simple. It also focuses on:

● minimizing the negative impact travel can have on the environment and local
● protecting wildlife and conserving cultural heritage
● not just where we travel but how we travel

While sustainable tourism is about minimal negative impact and benefits for the locals, eco-
, on the other hand, is more focused on educating tourists about the local ecosystem
and the culture they are visiting.

Why Do We Need Sustainable Tourism?

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The number of international tourist arrivals increased from 2 million in 1950 to 1.32 billion in
2017, as stated on the Sustaining Tourism site. As the tourism industry grows, the pressure on
the ecosystem increases. Over 11% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from tourists.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most known examples of how climate change is affecting
nature. And unfortunately, it’s not the only one.

Tourism helps local communities in many ways, but it also destroys local authenticity in order to
accommodate tourists. Locals are often pushed out of their neighborhoods as business
increases and rent prices soar in popular tourist locations. There’s the destruction of natural
habitats, deforestation, and ruining of beautiful sceneries to make new hotels. It might give
locals a few new job openings, but at what price?

Beware of Greenwashing

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Greenwashing is when organizations spend more time and money on advertising as eco-
friendly than actually investing in minimizing their environmental impact. Tourist organizations
are no different. Sustainable tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism
industry, so it’s not a surprise that tour operators use the concept just to bring in more clients.

Also, traveling in big groups doesn’t really fall in line with this whole idea. Massive eco-tourism
stops being sustainable when it becomes massive. Maybe we can’t make all tourism
sustainable at the moment, but all forms of tourism have the ability to be more sustainable. And
if there’s a demand, there’s a way.

How to Travel More Sustainably

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We should definitely check twice before trusting a tourist organization. So how are we supposed
to travel more sustainably? Here are some effective practices:

  1. Do your research. While one aspect of your trip may seem sustainable, you need to
    see the whole picture and check if the entire trip can be considered eco-friendly. It might
    be quite the opposite.
  2. Go for a more sustainable form of transportation. Try avoiding airplanes, and when
    you’re there, focus on walking and cycling instead of driving. Electric vehicles are always
    a good choice, and many accommodations are using eco-friendly transportation options
    on their premises.
  3. Recycling and the responsible use of water are very important parts of sustainable
    travel. Protecting nature and being especially mindful of endangered species are crucial.
    Simply respect life!
  4. Consider where you’re spending your money. The goal is to support local
    businesses, which can be quite tricky.
  5. Being in nature does not mean you’re making a good impact. It usually means
    otherwise. Walking through the jungle can do more damage to the ecosystem than good.
    So check with the locals; they will give you some pointers, and you’ll be set for an
  6. Volunteer. Engage with the community, meet new people, and learn new languages.
    There’s no better way to truly immerse yourself in local culture than spending time with
    the locals.

In Closing
We need to be aware that everything we do has an impact on the ecosystem. We and the world
we live in are not two separate entities — we are one. Disrespecting and harming nature is
indirectly harming yourself. So next time when you start planning your trip, check in which ways
you can make a difference. Is that picture on Instagram (that everyone has) worth it? Just try to
be more present and immersed in the culture you’re privileged to visit.

Sarah Kaminski

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