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Sustainable Tourism

August 08, 2020
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Sustainable Tourism

The 21st century has connected the world unlike ever before, making it a ‘Not So Lonely A Planet.’ However, this connectedness has brought about an over-exhaustion of the resources. Whether staying at the Wynn Las Vegas, or taking a mesmerizing cruise in the Caribbean, or even a jungle safari in South Africa, all these experiences have a certain impact on the host ecosystem. And when done in excess, these experiences deplete the resources of the host ecosystem, making it unsustainable and unviable in the long run. This gives rise to the need to have a sustainable tourism model, which supports not only the travelers, the travel industry, and the host community, but also the generations to come and their needs.

When we come across concrete structures where once dense forests stood, or when we look at a pristine lagoon, which has turned into a ‘garbage-spread,’ we realize the impact of our actions on Nature. If we continue on the same path, slowly but inevitably, these destinations will lose their charm that drives travelers there.

There are a few numbers we should look at, to better understand the need for Sustainable Tourism:

  • International Tourist Arrivals: 25 Million (1950); 1.5 Billion (2019)
  • 80% of the world’s coral reefs are at risk
  • 35% of the world’s mangroves are destroyed
  • Average Annual Loss of Ice: 40 billion tons (1980s); 475 billion tons (2010s)
  • Average Annual Rise in Sea Level: 1.4 mm (1990); 3.4 mm (2016)
  • Global Tourism Industry’s carbon footprint is 4.5 gigatons; 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Average Hotel Guest’s Water Consumption: 300 liters (Basic Hotels); 1800 liters (Luxury Hotel)
  • The last fully intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic collapsed at the end of July 2020

Aspects to consider for Sustainable Tourism

  • Responsible Usage of Resources
  • Reduction in Over-Consumption and Elimination of Wastage
  • Preservation of Biodiversity
  • Conservation of Socio-Cultural Heritage of Host Community
  • Creating long-term Socio-Economic Benefits (for all)

Types of sustainable tourism

Here are some of the top sustainable tourism examples: 

This form of tourism is focused on preserving and protecting natural environments and wildlife. 
Cultural tourism: The aim of this tourism is to promote and preserve cultural heritage, traditions, and practices.
Adventure tourism: Adventure tourism promotes outdoor activities like trekking, rock climbing, and water sports with minimal impact on the environment. 
Agrotourism: It involves visiting farms and rural areas to experience agricultural practices and support rural development. 

Sustainable tourism organizations

Here are some of the top sustainable tourism organizations:

Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)
  • Sustainable Travel International (STI)
  • The International Ecotourism Society (TIES)
  • The Rainforest Alliance
  • The Global Ecotourism Network (GEN)
  • The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST)

Sustainable tourism planning

Sustainable tourism planning include the steps that one must take to conduct and maintain the aspects of sustainable tourism. Here are the steps to plan effective sustainable tourism to a travel destination: 
  • Conduct a destination assessment
  • Develop a sustainable tourism strategy
  • Engage stakeholders such as government, local bodies, etc.
  • Educate tourists about the location and sustainable tourism 
  • Measure and monitor progress the impacts
  • Improve the strategies after the analysis of the impact
Suggested Read: Event Tourism – Impact and Types

Sustainable tourism destinations

Costa Rica: Costa Rica has several national parks and wildlife reserves. The country has taken numerous sustainable tourism initiatives, including carbon offset programs and eco-lodges.
Norway: Norway focuses on eco-tourism through eco-friendly transportations and sustainable accommodations. 
Bhutan: Bhutan strictly adheres to it the "High Value, Low Impact" policy. It prioritizes sustainable tourism practices to preserve local culture and the environment.
New Zealand: New Zealand is popular for its green spaces and sustainable tourism practices. 
Palau: Palau is an island nation in the western Pacific. It is dedicated to preserve its natural environment, including marine conservation efforts, and eco-friendly tourism initiatives.

Maintaining the environmental, social, and economic aspects are critical for Sustainable Tourism, and not just preserving the natural environment and its resources. We need to ensure that the local community benefits and develops, without losing their socio-cultural heritage.

The UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO) and the UNGA are extensively working on sustainable tourism development and are working on many initiatives like Hotel Energy Solutions (HES), Global Tourism Plastics Initiative (GTPI), One Planet, Resilience of Tourism, and Small Islands Developing States (SIDS).

Sustainable Tourism is an on-going process that requires us to constantly monitor, analyze, implement corrective/preventive measures, and go back to monitoring again. It would also require a high level of collaboration between various governments and the tourism industry to achieve the results we hope for. We also need to ensure that travelers have a meaningful experience while also understanding the need for sustainability and follow the practices.

Suggested Read: Tourism Planning: Importance, Benefits, Types & Levels  

Sustainable Tourism is the only way forward!

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