What is sustainable tourism and why is it important? (2023)

Sustainable tourism considers its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts and meets the needs of its ecological environment and local communities. This is achieved by protecting the natural environment and wildlife in the development and management of tourism activities, providing tourists only with authentic experiences that do not abuse or misrepresent local heritage and culture, or providing direct socio-economic benefits through education and employment create local communities.

As people begin to pay more attention to sustainability and the direct and indirect impacts of their actions, destinations and tour operators are following suit. For example theCommitment to the sustainability of New Zealand tourismaims for all New Zealand tourism businesses to have a sustainability commitment by 2025, while the island nation of Palau requires visitors to sign oneecological commitmentat the entrance since 2017.

What is sustainable tourism and why is it important? (1)

Tourism industries are considered to be successfully sustainable when they can meet the needs of travelers while having a low impact on natural resources and creating long-term jobs for local people. By creating positive experiences for locals, travelers and the industry itself, well-managed sustainable tourism can meet the needs of the present without compromising the future.

What is sustainability?

At its core, sustainability focuses on balance – maintaining our environmental, social and economic benefits without depleting the resources that future generations need to thrive. In the past, sustainability ideals leaned more toward business, although more modern definitions of sustainability emphasize the search for ways to avoid depletion of natural resources, to maintain ecological balance, and to preserve the quality of society's environment and people.

What makes tourism sustainable?

As tourism affects and is influenced by a multitude of different activities and industries, for sustainable tourism to be successful, all sectors and stakeholders (tourists, governments, host communities, tourism companies) must work together.

ÖWorld Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations agency responsible for promoting sustainable tourism, and theGlobal Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), the global standard for sustainable travel and tourism, share similar views on what constitutes sustainable tourism. In her opinion, sustainable tourism should make optimal use of environmental resources, contribute to the preservation of natural heritage and biodiversity, respect the socio-culture of the host country's local communities and contribute to intercultural understanding. From an economic point of view, too, it must ensure viable, long-term operations that offer benefits to all involved, including stable jobs for local people, social services or contributions to poverty alleviation.

The GSTC has developed a set of criteria to create a common language for sustainable travel and tourism. These criteria are used to differentiate sustainable travel destinations and organizations, but they can also help create sustainable policies for businesses and government agencies. The global baseline standards are organized into four pillars and include Sustainable Management, Socio-Economic Impact, Cultural Impact and Environmental Impact.

Travel Tip:

The GSTC is an excellent resource for travelers who want to searchsustainably managed travel destinations and accommodationand learn how to become a more sustainable traveler in general.

(Video) Why sustainable tourism?


Protection of the natural environment is the basis of sustainable tourism. Data released by the World Tourism Organization estimates that tourism-related carbon emissions are expected to increase by 25% by 2030. In 2016, emissions related to tourism transport accounted for 5% of all man-made emissions, while transport-related emissions, long-standing international transport trips, are projected to increase by 45% by 2030.

The environmental impact of tourism does not end with CO2 emissions either. Tourism that is not managed sustainably can cause waste problems, result in land loss or soil erosion, loss of natural habitats and increase pressureendangered species.Resources in these places are already scarce for the most part, and unfortunately the negative impacts can contribute to the destruction of the environment on which the industry depends.

Industries and destinations that want to be sustainable must do their part to conserve resources, reduce pollution and preserve important biodiversity and ecosystems. In order to achieve this, appropriate resource management as well as waste and emissions management are important. For example, in Bali, tourism uses 65% of local water resources, while in Zanzibar, tourists use 15 times more water per night than locals.

Another factor in green, sustainable tourism is purchasing: does the tour operator, hotel or restaurant prefer local suppliers and products? How do they deal with food waste and dispose of goods? Something as simple as offering paper straws instead of plastic straws can have a huge impact on an organization's carbon footprint.

Recently there has been an increase in companies doing advertisingcarbon reduction; "Carbon Dioxide Reduction. The idea behind carbon offsetting is to offset the greenhouse gas emissions caused by cutting emissions elsewhere. Similar to the idea that reduce or reuse should be considered firstRecycling, carbon offsetting should not be the main goal. Sustainable tourism industries always work first to reduce emissions and offset what they cannot.

Properly managed sustainable tourism also has the power to provide alternatives to need-based occupations and behaviors such aspoaching. Often, and particularly in underdeveloped countries, residents engage in environmentally harmful practices due to poverty and other social problems. In India's Periyar Tiger Reserve, for example, an unregulated surge in tourists has made it difficult to control poaching in the area. In response, an ecological development program aimed at creating jobs for local people turned 85 former poachers into game wardens on the reserve. Under the supervision of the reserve's management team, the ranger group have developed a range of tour packages and are now protecting the land rather than exploiting it. They found that responsible wildlife tourism jobs are more rewarding and lucrative than illegal work.

What is sustainable tourism and why is it important? (2)

Travel Tip:

Flying non-stop and spending more time at a single destination can save CO2, as planes use more fuel the more often they take off.

(Video) What is Sustainable Tourism?

Local culture and residents

One of the most important and overlooked aspects of sustainable tourism is helping to protect, preserve and enhance places and local traditions. This includes areas of historical, archaeological or cultural significance, but also “intangible heritage” such as ceremonial dance or traditional art techniques.

In cases where a site is used as a tourist attraction, it is important that tourism does not impede access for local residents. For example, some tourism organizations create local programs that offer residents the opportunity to visit tourist sites with cultural value in their own countries. A program called"Children in the Desert"operated by Wilderness Safaris, educates children in rural Africa about the importance of wildlife conservation and valuable leadership development tools. Holidays booked through the travel websiteResponsible travelcontribute to the company“trip for a trip”Program that organizes day trips for disadvantaged youth who live near popular tourist destinations but have never had the opportunity to visit them.

Sustainable tourism organizations work with communities to integrate diverse local cultural expressions as part of a traveler's experience and ensure they are appropriately represented. They work with local people and solicit their input on culturally appropriate interpretations of sites and train drivers to provide visitors with a valuable (and accurate) impression of the site. The key is to inspire travelers to want to protect the area because they understand its importance.

Bhutan, a small landlocked country in South Asia, has been applying an all-inclusive tax system for international visitors since 1997 (USD 200 per day in low season and USD 250 per day in high season).In this way, the government manages to limit the tourism market exclusively to local entrepreneurs and tourism to certain regions, ensuring that the country's most valuable natural resources are not exploited.

What is sustainable tourism and why is it important? (3)

Travel Tip:

Integrating volunteering into your vacation is a great way to learn more about local culture while making a contribution to your host community. You can also book a tripmainly based on volunteer workthrough a locally run non-profit or charity (just make sure the job doesn't deprive residents of employment opportunities).


Building a business case for sustainable tourism is not difficult, especially when we look at a destination as a product. Think of protecting a travel destination, cultural landmark or ecosystem as an investment. By keeping the environment healthy and locals happy, sustainable tourism maximizes the resource efficiency of businesses. This is especially true in places where locals are more likely to voice their concerns if they feel the industry is treating visitors better than local residents.

Not only does reducing dependence on natural resources help save money in the long run, studies show that modern travelers are more likely to engage in eco-friendly tourism. Booking.com found this out in 201973% of travelerspreferred an eco-friendly hotel to a traditional one and 72% of travelers believe people need to make sustainable travel choices for the benefit of future generations.

(Video) What is Sustainable Tourism?

Travel Tip:

Always be aware of where your favors are coming from and whether or not the money goes directly into the local economy. For example, opt for handmade souvenirs made by local artisans.

The role of tourists

Growth in the travel and tourism sector alone has outpaced the overall growth of the global economy for nine straight years. Before the pandemic, travel and tourism contributed $9.6 trillion to global GDP and 333 million jobs (or one in four new jobs globally).

Sustainable travel funds help support employees, who in turn pay taxes that contribute to the local economy. If these employees are not paid a fair wage or are not treated fairly, the traveler is unknowingly supporting harmful or unsustainable practices that do nothing for the future of the community. If a hotel doesn't take its environmental footprint into account, it may build infrastructure at animal nesting sites or contribute to excessive pollution. The same is true for attractions, as sustainably managed sites (e.g. nature reserves) often provide profits for conservation and research.

Costa Rica managed to turn a severe deforestation crisis in the 1980s into a diversified tourism-based economy by designating 25.56% of protected land as a national park, wildlife sanctuary or reserve.

What is sustainable tourism and why is it important? (4)

Travel Tip:

When traveling, think about how you want your country or hometown to be treated by visitors.

Are you a sustainable traveler?

Sustainable travelers know that their actions leave an environmental and social footprint on the places they visit. Be carefulDestinations, accommodation and activities you choose, and choose destinations near you or extend your stay to save resources. Consider switching to more environmentally friendly means of transport such as bicycles, trains or similargoduring the holidays. Try to support locally run tourism businesses or local family businesses rather than big international chains. Do not engage in activities that harm wildlife, such aselephant walkorTiger caresses, and decide on a wildlife sanctuary (or better yet, take part in a beach cleanup or schedule an hour or two of volunteer work that interests you). Leave the natural areas as you found them, take what you have with you, do not throw away rubbish and respect local residents and their traditions.

Most of us travel to see the world. New cultures, new traditions, new landscapes, smells and tastes make traveling so rewarding. It is our responsibility as travelers to ensure these destinations are protected not only for the benefit of the communities that depend on them, but also for a future generation of travellers.

(Video) Sustainable Tourism / Meaning, Principles and Benefits of Sustainable Tourism / Ecotourism Journey

types of sustainable tourism

Sustainable tourism has many different levels, most of which oppose traditional forms of mass tourism that are more likely to cause environmental damage, loss of culture, pollution, negative economic impacts and excessive tourism.


Ecotourism emphasizes responsible travel to natural areas with an emphasis on environmental protection. A sustainable tourism establishment supports and contributes to the conservation of biodiversity by responsibly managing its own property and respecting or enhancing nearby protected natural areas (or areas of high biological value). Most often this looks like monetary compensation for conservation management, but it can also involve ensuring that rides, attractions and infrastructure do not disrupt natural ecosystems.

On the same hand, wildlife interactions with free-roaming wildlife must be non-invasive and managed responsibly to avoid negative impacts on animals. As a traveler, prioritize visits to accredited locationsrescue and rehabilitation centersthat focus on the treatment, housing or return of animals to the wild, such asJaguar rescue centerin Costa Rica.

light tourism

Soft tourism can emphasize local experiences, local languages, or promote time in individual areas. She resists harsh tourism with short-term visits, trips with no respect for culture, leadingmany selfies, and a general sense of superiority as a tourist.

For example, many World Heritage sites pay special attention to protection, conservation and sustainability and promote sustainable tourism. The famous Machu Picchu in Peru used to be considered one of the worst casualties in the worldovertourism, or a point of interest that has been affected by too many tourists (e.g. traffic or garbage). The attraction has taken steps to curb damage in recent years by requiring hikers to hire local guides on the Inca Trail, including dates and times on guest tickets to avoid overcrowding, and banning all single-use plastic from the grounds.

What is sustainable tourism and why is it important? (5)

Travel Tip:

Traveling during a goalhalf season, the time between high and low season, usually combines good weather and low prices without large crowds. This provides better opportunities for immersion in a new place without contributing to overtourism, but also provides revenue for the local economy during what is typically a low season.

Country tourism

Rural tourism applies to tourism that takes place in non-urbanized areas such as national parks, forests, nature reserves and mountain areas. It could mean anything fromCampingeGlampingforgoand WOOFEN. Rural tourism is a great way to practice sustainable tourism as it usually requires less consumption of natural resources.

community tourism

Community-based tourism includes tourism where local residents invite travelers to visit their own communities. Sometimes it involves overnight stays and usually takes place in rural or underdeveloped countries. This type of tourism fosters connection and allows tourists to gain a deep understanding of local habitats, wildlife and traditional cultures – while providing direct economic benefits to host communities. Ecuador is a world leader in community tourism and offers unique accommodation options such as:Sani-Lodgeis operated by the local indigenous Kichwa community and offers responsible cultural experiences in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest.

(Video) Why Is Sustainable Tourism Important? What is Sustainable Tourism? Tourism Consultant Mike Ball


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