The United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation defines sustainable tourism as “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”.
It means sustainable tourism must optimally use environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, and ensure viable and long-term economic operations. With that in mind, here are 18 ways to promote sustainable tourism:
1. Avoid the plane, or take non-stop flights
Take-offs and landings cause most of a plane’s carbon emissions, in addition to emitting a lot of heat. As such, try taking non-stop flights to use the least amount of fuel and reduce the plane’s carbon emissions. If you can, avoid the plane altogether and take the train instead. Not only will it decrease your carbon footprints, but it will also give you more time with your traveling companion, as well as offer you the chance to experience a deeper sense of place
2. Go green
In your hotel room, ask them not to change your sheets and towels every day. Turn off the air conditioning, heater and electronic gadgets when you leave your room. Also, stay in hotels that have recycling programs in place and abide by them. When traveling, travel with reusables like reusable water bottles, travel mugs, a cloth shopping bag for the groceries, and containers for leftovers, all the while, avoiding single-use disposables.
3. Spread awareness on sustainable tourism
As educated people, who are fully aware of how our actions impact the environment, and who understand sustainable tourism, it is our duty to educate others by spreading awareness on the same. We should lead by example as individuals, groups, organizations, companies and even governments, driving up the awareness to more policymakers, who can enable long-term change on a systematic level.
4. Support local restaurants
After traveling to a new place, spend some time in their local restaurants and food joints. Support these small businesses as opposed to having multiple meals at the hotel in which you are staying, or by ordering from food giants. Supporting local restaurants means you will be sampling locally-sourced ingredients which is an additional way of meeting new people who are enthusiastic about you trying their traditional food.
Avoid all-inclusive packages when making a booking as it will force you to pay up-front for your accommodation, food and activities, and will deny you the opportunity to sample local foods and traditions.
5. Support legislation that promotes sustainable tourism
We are indebted to this world and it is up to us to ensure that more is done to protect the planet and its inhabitants, human or not. We should rally behind governments to bring about legislation that protects the environment more and those that promote sustainable tourism, offering our support both on national and international levels. Businesses and persons who do not abide by such legislation, who find loopholes to turn a profit, should also be heavily fined by the laws
6. Buy souvenirs from local stores
When you visit a new place, be sure to support their ventures by buying some of the souvenirs. In doing so, you will be promoting the authentic artisans and their locally handcrafted items. Do not go for purchases that will end up in the trash soon as well as souvenirs that have a larger carbon footprint.
Check for local items that have some sort of value, such as ceramics, art and textiles. In doing so, you will also be injecting money into the local economy, promoting the people’s work and creating more jobs for the locals.
7. Support the fight against illegal trade
In addition to purchasing souvenirs from local peoples, support the fight against illegal trade in such areas. Patronize businesses that are not engaged in illegal trade, the exploitation of humans, specifically children, and the looting of artifacts.
For instance, loggers are ravaging Cambodian forests for rosewood for luxury furniture, yachts, pens and cars, among many other valuables, which fetches them upwards of between $7,000 and $15,000 per cubic meter. Supporting the fight against illegal trades also means not purchasing wildlife products as it encourages trafficking of rare and endangered wildlife products as souvenirs
8. Walk where possible
Walking is the most basic and convenient way of touring a new place, in addition to the fact that it reduces your carbon footprints. Get help from tour guides who advise on areas that are safe to walk through, and do so. Additionally, some animals in the wild are rattled by heavy sounds such as those produced by motor vehicles. Therefore, leave the van at the entrance, and just walk, which will not disturb these animals.
There are so many ways you can reduce your emissions and carbon footprint and save money by modifying some of your everyday behaviors. The added benefit: relying less on your vehicle often means you’re getting more exercise and living a healthier lifestyle!
Visit ECO-TRAVEL TIPS (earth5r.org) for more information.
9. Promote sustainable tourism with your inner circle
When touring a new place, you definitely will bring your family or friends. Some of them might want to break the rules or not abide by the measures advocated for in this article. However, you have to lead by example and instill sustainable tourist measures in them. Ask them not to bring plastics, to carry sustainable straws, to bring reusable bags, to walk, to be sustainable in their hotel rooms and more.
10. Travel more locally
There are a lot of advantages to touring your own nation first, vis-à-vis sustainable tourism. You will not have to use the plane, you can rely on public transport or the train, you will promote local businesses, and inject more money into your own economy. You will also learn something new about your nation, fight illegal trades in the tourism industry, inspire yourself and those around you, and become inspired to champion sustainable tourism and related legislation in your own country.
11. Share your sustainable travel experiences
This is also in line with spreading awareness of sustainable tourism. Share your experiences with your family, friends and those on social media. The more you talk about how you travel, the more you will reinforce the importance of responsible and sustainable travel. Share these experiences and you will develop the same interests and responsibilities as someone else.
12. Volunteer to organizations fighting the same fight
Take your time and give to non-governmental organizations and community tourism projects that are fighting for sustainable and responsible travel. Research volunteering opportunities and organizers with whom your time, money and resources will be of positive impact.
Involve yourself in local projects and community tourism organizations, and this might be a chance to learn something new about local life and practices. Inspiration and much more can also be drawn from such activities
13. Say no to plastics
Be part of the solution by opting for locally purified water in recyclable glass bottles and carry tote bags in your luggage that you can use while perusing street shops and markets. This cuts back on plastic waste and reduces your carbon footprints. It might also be a way to challenge petroleum-based ingredients, which are a staple in manufacturing plastic bags and bottles. In the spirit of avoiding plastics, take part in the fight against the same, which is indeed a global problem.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is literally an island of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean, made up of gazillions of thrown-away plastic bottles and bags. These will take hundreds of years to break down, if ever, and continue to wreak havoc on marine ecosystems.
14. Donate to sustainable tourism businesses and organizations
There are thousands of organizations and businesses all over the world who are taking the fight for sustainable tourism daily. In addition to volunteering your time to them, donate as much as you can. Financially supporting them will help them continue their efforts towards attaining a greener planet for us all.
For instance, Patagonia is a sustainable clothing and outdoor brand leading the sustainable fashion revolution, 4ocean is a socially and environmentally-responsible business making recycled bracelets from ocean plastic, and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international marine wildlife conservation organization dedicated to tracking down illegal fishing boats and enforcing laws around deep-sea fishing
15. Take care of heritage places
There are thousands of heritage sites all over the world, which attract millions of visits every year. Unfortunately, an estimated $6 billion of the world’s cultural heritage is stolen and sold every year. This, therefore, calls for more people to take care of heritage sites. Don’t litter and take your trash with you, do not graffiti, and don’t have your name emblazoned on the walls or caves.
Also, and especially to the millennials, do not take a photo of yourself sitting on these monuments, especially if there is a sign that says ‘NO’. these artifacts and monuments are fragile maybe because of their old age and can be sensitive to the touch of hands, bags or shoes. Take care of these sites, so that they are open for more people to view in the future
16. Respect the practices of local peoples
This goes without saying, but do not enforce your practices and beliefs to these locals. When people are praying in churches, mosques, temples or other holy sites, be discreet. Additionally, wear decent clothing when visiting these places and abide by any established dress code.
Do not use vulgar language when with the locals, maybe because they cannot understand your language as it is plain rude. Think before saying anything to them or doing anything before their presence as it might offend them, despite how unoffensive it is to you. Consult the tour guide if it is okay to do it or say it before doing so. Above all, leave the place better than you found it.
17. Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone
Once you are on that trail, walk around especially in the streets closest to your hotel. Get the feel of the local area, promoting their businesses like eating at the local restaurants. Talk to the people even if it is with the taxi driver and understand what a typical life is like for them. Learn a few words in the local language and use it.
You definitely will get a smile from the hotel staff, street vendors and more local people. Be sure to challenge yourself, take an additional step to your comfort zone, and make every trip worthwhile. You will be surprised how much inspiration you can draw from these trips in your later years.
18. Make sustainable tourism the new ‘normal’
Be a responsible and sustainable tourist every time, not only once. Refuse to partake in paid activities that injure, harm, or pose potential harm to animals; support local businesses, vendors, shops, and indigenous peoples whenever you travel; end and replace single-use plastics with recyclable, reusable, or sustainable alternatives; and end fast fashion.
You can also eat at restaurants that source from local, regional, and organic farmers, stop and help put a stop to the illegal trade of animals, their goods, and products, support eco-tourism and environmentally-conscious tour operators and companies, and reduce or stop the consumption of meat products, especially in areas where meat consumption is rising exponentially due to foreign demand.
Finally, don’t be sustainable when it comes to tourism alone, but with all your life. Make it your mission in life to be a sustainable human being.
We travel to new places for many reasons: to meet new people, experience new cultures, and see some of the most beautiful sights in the world.
But have you ever wondered how your travels affect the local environment?
To read more of such articles, please visit https://earth5r.org/
References: https://www.gdrc.org/uem/eco-tour/sustour-define.html, http://www.greentourism.eu/en/Post/Name/SustainableTourism, https://www.un.org/press/en/1999/19990419.endev500.html, Conserve Energy Future