When thinking of sustainability, many people only focus on the environmental part of it. Sustainability is, however, much more than just the environmental impact. My very brief internship at BookDifferent.com has thought me the four pillars of sustainable tourism. Combining this with what I had already learned about sustainable travel and sustainable tourism at my Tourism Management course has helped me to understand the full concept of sustainable tourism and I would love to share it with you. Here is a start:
A big part of sustainability is respect for human rights and decent working conditions. In order to guarantee long-term sustainability, a strategy and a system must be set up and a responsible person must be appointed within the organization to ensure that these strategies and activities are structurally implemented, maintained and measured. In addition, it is important that national and regional laws are respected and included in the standard.
What you can do
When booking accommodation or eating at a restaurant make sure you support companies that comply with these terms and conditions. A great way to make sure of this is by checking for eco-labels or by booking via a sustainable tour operator, like bookdifferent.com.
Visit destinations that are not as popular. Not only will the locals be more accepting and friendly, but you will also not add to the over-tourism in those ‘way too popular’ destinations.
Fair and Local
The fair and local pillar of sustainable tourism focusses on fair and equal treatment for employees and the destinations, as well as locally grown and produced products. Sustainable tourism offers possibilities or opportunities for those working in hotels and the travel sector. When travelling sustainably, you want to ensure that you only support accommodations that protect their employees and their children against any form of exploitation.
Tourism should benefit the local community. When buying or using products on holiday that was produced or grown in different countries than you are in at the time, not only do you increase your footprint, but you also contribute to ‘leakage’. Leakage is what causes the destination to gain very little from the tourism sector.
What you can do
Buy your products at local shops and markets instead of at massive chain stores. Try the local cuisine, visit a local brewery and make sure your souvenirs weren’t ‘made in China’.
When booking an accommodation checking for eco-labels and booking via sustainable tour operators, are once again great ways to make sure you stay abroad sustainably.
If you ever see unacceptable or unfair working conditions for the hotel staff or children working at the accommodation you are staying at, make sure to try and speak to someone in charge. Don’t be afraid to speak up and start the conversation.
We travel for many reasons: Peace, freedom, reconnecting with nature, discovering new cultures and so on. Therefore, respect for local traditions is so important, we would not be able to learn about them if we don’t respect them and keep them from dying out. Culture is something that needs to be celebrated and protected.
What you can do
When travelling, look for accommodations that nurture individual and community identity, promote social cohesion and contribute to the creation of social capital at the destination. Attention to the local culture will lead to more involvement of the travellers at the destination and will ensure that the sense of belonging is promoted, and the cultural identity of a destination is increased.
Nature and Environmental
Of course, nature and environment are still a huge part of sustainability and sustainable tourism. Just keep in mind that it is not the only important factor when we talk about sustainable tourism. We talked about the other pillars already, so now discuss taking care of mother earth regarding tourism.
All human activities have an impact on the planet, including our hotel stays and travel choices. For example, does a hotel have a ban on plastic bottles or does the hotel promote zero waste? Are they efficient with their water use? Have they used sustainable materials?
What you can do
Look at the environmental initiatives that accommodations have taken to minimize their (negative) impact on the environment, as well as all measures they have taken to prevent or minimize the disturbance of the local fauna. Try to book the most sustainable one.
Don’t act differently than you would at home. Throw your garbage in the bin, don’t take extremely long showers, stay on the path and travel with public transport as much as you can.
“Responsible Travel is the Journey. Sustainable Travel is the destination.”
I’ll be here in my strange little town. Lots of love,