With each year we are becoming more aware of how much more we could do for a better future in all of the areas including in our travels, especially since nowadays we have the opportunity to travel more than we ever did, excluding the pandemic period that has made us stop for a while. However, this pause made us appreciate even more what we have and how we can improve.
According to Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report, “the pandemic has been the tipping point for travelers to finally commit to their own sustainable journey, with 72% of global travelers believing people have to act now to save the planet for future generations”.
The same report reveals that the pandemic determined travelers to be more committed than ever to travel with care for the planet:
– 61% say that the pandemic has influenced them to want to travel more sustainably in the future
– and 49% believe that the pandemic has changed their attitude towards making positive improvements in their everyday lives, including recycling (49%) and reducing food waste (42%).
And that is great for you individually and for the planet. It means that more people are interested in becoming responsible travelers, that they care about sustainable tourism and may choose ecotourism instead of visiting an overcrowded destination. But what should you choose and what do these terms even mean?
Sustainable Tourism refers to sustainable practices in and by the tourism industry and it aims to minimize the negative impacts and maximize the positive ones.
When we talk about the negative ones, we can include economic leakage, damaging the natural environment or overcrowding the place, while the positive impacts to a destination can include cultural heritage preservation and wildlife preservation or job creation.
The UN Environment Program and UN World Tourism Organization define it 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.”
These three pillars (environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects) must be balanced to guarantee long-term sustainability.
Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) defines Responsible Travel as “a term used when referring to the behavior of travelers aspiring to make choices on their trip according to sustainable tourism practices”.
It’s about the behavior of travelers who choose to act in accordance with sustainable tourism practices, as mentioned before, minimizing the negative impacts and maximizing the positive ones.
Ecotourism can be defined in many ways but mainly it’s a niche tourism focused on natural destinations with low-impact. .
It should also benefit the environment and local communities with an interest in the cultural landscape.
According to Global Ecotourism Network, ecotourism should follow authentic principles such as producing direct financial benefits for conservation, generating financial benefits for both local people and private industry and minimizing physical, social, behavioral and psychological impacts on fauna and flora.
So, if we sum up,
Sustainable Tourism refers to the desire for sustainability of all forms of tourism.
Responsible Travel describes the behavior of travelers who choose to make a positive impact on the places they visit.
Ecotourism is a niche segment of tourism in natural areas.
And the data shows we are on the right track, as these are some of the actions to which travelers are committed, according to Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report:
– reducing general waste (84%)
– reducing their energy consumption (83%)
– using more environmentally friendly modes of transport, such as walking or cycling instead of rental cars or taxis (79%)
– having authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture when they travel (73%)
– increasing cultural understanding and preservation of cultural heritage (84%)
– ensuring the economic impact of the industry is spread equally in all levels of society (76%)
– avoiding popular destinations and attractions to ensure they aren’t contributing to overcrowding challenges and helping do their part to disperse the positive benefits of travel to less frequently visited destinations and communities (69%)
The intentions are great, but we still have the issue of not knowing which are indeed sustainable accommodations and which are only using this as a marketing tool. An eco-resort or a green hotel means nothing if they don’t have any proof for their statements.
For now, the power is in the travelers’ hands: research and check the certifications your potential destination and accommodation own.
Whatever you choose, remember that your choice matters: from the destination you choose, the accommodation you book, the souvenirs you buy, the transportations you use and the amount of waste you create to the attitude you have and the conversations you decide to have with the locals.
Main Photo by Mesut Kaya