What is Sustainable Tourism? And How You Can Be A Part of It

By Jessica Ferrer
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Photo By Simon Migaj

The tourism industry is growing, and with that so does the impact that it leaves. In fact, the World Travel & Tourism Council reported in 2018 that it “is the second-fastest growing sector in the world” and is “responsible for one in five of all new jobs created in the world over the last five years.” Tourism has undeniably had positive effects for economies around the world.

However, the negative effects that mass tourism can leave are undeniable. The destruction of natural environments, dislocation, loss of heritage and economic dependence are all problems created by mass tourism, according to UNESCO. And with flights being a leading source of greenhouse gases, some travelers are choosing to fly less. But that doesn’t mean all traveling and tourism needs to come to a halt. Sustainable tourism is also growing, and by making some intentional choices, travelers can change the way they travel.

Sustainable tourism, as defined by the UN World Tourism Organization, is “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.” Making choices like taking the train when possible, booking activities with companies that are committed to sustainability and respecting the local culture are all ways to take part in sustainable tourism. By keeping these goals in mind, you can become a better traveler.

Choose companies committed to sustainable practices.

Whether it’s flying with airlines that use carbon offsets, or traveling with a group that ensures eco-friendly activities, there are tourism companies out there that are changing their ways. Intrepid Travel is a tour group company that focuses on small group and responsible travel. Their trips are adventurous and socially conscious. In 2018, Airbnb launched their Office of Healthy Tourism, and is also making strides in reducing the effects of mass tourism.

If you’re more interested in a loose type of travel, shopping locally, booking a guide for historical or ecological sights and researching the cultural traditions beforehand are ways to participate in sustainable tourism.

Sustainable Dining While Traveling

As people who travel for food, we understand that tasting the local cuisine is all part of the fun. The good news is that most of the time eating traditional foods requires resources from the area, so dining at local restaurants is the way to go. However, if you’re staying in an Airbnb or hotel with a kitchen, consider dining in one night. It can save a bit of money, you can support vendors at the markets and you’ll avoid creating waste with takeout containers. Exploring and shopping at markets is also a good way to eat and act like a local as much as possible. Bringing reusable water bottles, utensils and bags also helps reduce waste.

Eating at farm-to-table restaurants, staying at hotels with sustainable dining programs and participating in volunteer farming are also other ways to travel consciously.

We can all take part in sustainable tourism by making simple changes and continue to support a growing industry. When you’re planning your next vacation, consider a few of our suggestions to become a sustainable traveler.

To learn more about how Airbnb
is supports Environmentally Friendly Travel within their community, click here
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