When many of us think of travel, we are reminded of the luxury of relaxation, and the adrenaline of excitement. Less often do we consider how our actions are impacting the communities we visit in unforeseen ways. While you may be a traveler with the best of intentions, it may be rather shocking to learn of the negative effects that tourism can have on a city or country.
Luckily, many travelers today are proactively taking part in what is being called ‘sustainable travel’ in order to reduce the negative impact their trip has on their destination locale. In this article, we will discuss what sustainable travel is, why it’s important, and how you can easily partake in this growing trend so that you too can enjoy your travels with a better peace of mind.
What is Sustainable Travel?
Tourism is a key source of income among most developing countries. As such, sustainable travel is a practice that ensures the revenues garnered from that tourism, remains in that local community. To this effect, sustainable travel demands that tourism makes a positive impact on the surrounding environment, culture, and economy. In this way, travelers can feel good knowing that their travel decisions are serving to better the community they are visiting, and communities can proudly and happily welcome visitors without suffering negative consequences for doing so. Sustainable travel organizations routinely aim to educate travelers on how to best achieve this in a given location, such as encouraging them to dine in a locally owned restaurant.
Sustainable travel is not a one-size fits all approach. In fact, sustainable travel can be something as small as a travel organization offering a discount to travelers who opt to make a small donation to the local charity. Or, the contribution can be made in a larger way, such as educational opportunities being provided to local youth in a one-to-one ratio for the number of visitors to a specific attraction. For some, sustainable travel may simply mean staying in an eco-friendly hotel.
Why is Sustainable Travel Important?
Sustainable travel is important because, it takes into account the economic and social impact tourism has on a given community. This is important as tourism traditionally has a lot of negative implications on a community’s economy. For example, a region that relies on tourism can take a heavy financial hit if severe weather, political unrest, or terrorism halts the flow of tourism to the area. In alignment with this, over tourism can wreak havoc on the physical environment of a locale, as it creates pollution. Not to mention, commercialization can overrun the historic culture community turning it into a cookie-cutter touristy jungle, rather than preserving the uniqueness and charm that made it an appealing destination in the first place. Sustainable travel aims to reduce these negative impacts by working to circumvent them.
87% of travelers say they are interested in sustainable travel. From 2016-2018 the number of travelers who said they stayed in an eco-friendly accommodation rose 2% per year, showing that this trend is well underway, and growing.  Not only is sustainable travel important to the local communities it benefits, but it’s also a treat for the travel. In fact, 60% of sustainable travelers said they found this type of travel inspirational in terms of nature, and 54% said they were inspired by being able to make a positive impact on the local community of their destination.
How Can You Travel Sustainably?
Here are some great tips to ensure that your next travel is a sustainable adventure that you can feel truly good about:
- Manage your waste — many developing areas have trouble managing their waste. The burden becomes even more unbearable when tourists are adding to it. To help in this area, bring your own reusable plastics, such as a drink bottle, and avoid using anything disposable.
- Take steps to conserve the environment wherever possible — conduct research in order to understand the environmental issues that are impacting your destination and act accordingly. For example, if you are visiting an area that is experiencing a water crisis, simply minimize your water use. If you are visiting an area that is working to reduce pollution, choose to walk to an attraction instead of hailing a cab.
- Support local businesses — When spending your money during your travel, spend it where it counts and put it in the hands of the local citizens directly. Patron their businesses that sell products made locally, purchase their handcrafted goods, and dine in restaurants that serve local fare.
Small, simple gestures such as these make a huge impact on the communities you travel to.