Learning what sustainable tourism is and why it’s important

It is essential to understand what sustainable tourism is and why it is critical to develop sustainable tourism practices and meet sustainable destination goals around the world.

Have you considered the harmful effects of your travels? We all enjoy traveling, seeing new places, meeting new people… but have you ever thought about all of the negative impacts of your travels? We will explain in this article what sustainability is, how sustainable tourism benefits the world and mentions destinations with good sustainable tourism practices around the world.

What is sustainability

For a better understanding of sustainable tourism, let’s first understand what sustainability is.

The term sustainability is associated with issues such as deforestation, consumerism, trash in the ocean, endangered animals, etc. This makes sense because all of these issues can compromise the well-being and even the survival of future generations.

The 3 pillars of sustainability

Three pillars of sustainability must be balanced, which are economic, social, and environmental.

An event held by the United Nations (UN) in 2005 identified these three pillars.

In our daily lives, we often disregard the importance of keeping a balance between these three pillars. An example:

Meat exports are good for Brazil’s economy, so the country wants to expand its exports. This growth, however, harms the environment and the communities.

Examples of the negative impacts:

  • An increase in greenhouse gases
  • Water consumption is higher (did you know it takes more than 15,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilo of beef?)
  • Deforestation and ecosystem degradation
  • Increasing risk of zoonosis, both for people and animals
  • Territorial misappropriation

And others…

What is sustainable tourism?

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) defines sustainable tourism like this:

“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”

Adapting sustainability and its three pillars to the tourism industry is what sustainable tourism ends up being.

Why is sustainable tourism important?

World Travel & Tourism Council reports that tourism represents more than 10% of global GDP in 2019, so it’s incredibly crucial to our economy.

sustainable tourism wild lifeWhen tourism is rampant, what will the future look like?

If large hotels hire only foreigners, how will this affect local communities? Are foreign investors exploiting the locals with unfair deals and wages?

When we travel, do we have to put wild animals at risk so that we can take a selfie with them? Do we hand over our hard-earned money to responsible companies? Is our travel funding the environment or social crime?

Will we want places like Maya Bay in Thailand to close because of the devastation incurred from lack of planning and the lack of awareness of travelers? Can we imagine ourselves finding trash on paradise islands while on vacation?

Sustainability in our travels is just as important as it is in our daily lives at home, at work, or anywhere else.

Actually, every living creature on this planet is included in the sustainability discussion.

Sustainable tourism examples around the world

Many countries around the world are putting a lot of effort into becoming more sustainable.

Bhutan is perhaps the best example. In the world, Bhutan is the only nation whose carbon footprint is negative? Thus, the country produces more oxygen due to its forests than it releases through its gas emissions.

The tourism industry in Bhutan is well regulated; in addition to requiring a visa, a daily fee of $200-$250 is levied, which already includes a minimum of a 3-star hotel, tour, and meals. The majority of this fee goes toward environmental preservation and social development.

Sustainable destinations around the world include:

Costa Rica has 25% of its territory under protection, making it one of the world’s leaders in sustainable tourism. Certified hotels and tour operators that follow their recommendations are certified by a certified sustainable tourism program (CST).

Monaco: Green was the new glam in Monaco, with its 100% green energy, shared electric vehicles, and bicycles.

Jordan: Tourism is Jordan’s primary source of income, so to help grow the local economy, accommodations there need visitors to make use of local products, such as linens and towels.

More countries should be included, such as New Zealand, Norway, and Seychelles.

How sustainable tourism evolves

Not everyone is a responsible traveler, an increase in awareness is needed in most cases.

Witnessing people working in extremely precarious conditions in the largest slum in India, seeing people wearing masks in Kathmandu (Nepal) to guard against pollution, and other observations make us reassess our habits.

However, the real clincher is when you see what tourism can do to a paradise. This makes you think differently about sustainable tourism. People then begin to research the topic and look for ways to become active and environmentally responsible.