Over the past few decades, the tourism sector has grown considerably and has become a sector of great importance for the economy and international trade. The total turnover of international tourism in 2015 was 1.260 billion worldwide, while the number of international travelers this year was 1.186 million. It has also proved to be a stable sector, resistant to crises and other economic phenomena, and has shown uninterrupted growth since 2009.
However, despite the economic benefits that the sector brings, conventional tourism also has several adverse effects, which are significant given the size of the industry: pollution of protected areas, erosion, hotels being overcrowded, displacement of the local population when visitors arrive, etc. In this context, the concept of sustainable tourism is becoming increasingly important.
Through the diversity of relationships associated with tourism, sustainable tourism can act as a catalyst for change globally, promoting local economies in the fight against causes such as hunger, peace, and security. Let’s check out how we can all be responsible travelers!
But What is Sustainable Tourism?
Sustainable tourism is something simple to which every traveler should be committed. In general terms, sustainable tourism is when traveling is an activity with a low impact on the environment and local cultures. But what is defined so simply is not so simple in practice. Achieving sustainable tourism development requires the commitment of all those who are part of the world of travel. Governments, companies, citizens, and localities, and, above all, travelers must do their part to benefit the industry.
At Towards-Sustainability, we believe that it’s the best way to travel around the world, as it is the only way that enriches both the visitor and the destinations so that it benefits the whole world. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has since 2015 as its main task to promote it.
Why Sustainable Tourism?
Practicing sustainable tourism is nothing more than applying to the world of travel what today is a necessity in all aspects of life, sustainability. Our planet’s resources are limited, and the unrestricted use that humanity has made and continues to make of them has us on the brink of a crisis.
Sustainable Tourism and Environment
Global warming, driven mainly by greenhouse gases, will have impacts ranging from rising temperatures to rising sea levels. The United Nations warns that unless the process is stopped, our societies’ future is at risk.
Although more and more efforts are being made, the process is slow, and maintaining lifeways that consciously or unconsciously continue the planet’s depredation keeps us at high risk. Environmental sustainability must apply to everything to avoid this crisis. Traveling is one of the most important economic activities and one of the most enriching experiences for anyone. Those of us who are travelers become addicted to knowing other places, people, and cultures. But tourism can be a constructive or destructive activity in environmental and cultural terms.
Axes of Sustainable Tourism
There are three axes for the development of sustainable tourism, and the ideal is that benefits are achieved in each of them. These are environment, economy, and culture.
When thinking about sustainability and sustainable development, the first thing that comes to mind is natural resources, which has an essential implication for tourism. It all starts with transportation because to get to a destination; we have to use some means. Although there are means without environmental impact at the local level, such as cycling or merely walking or hiking, there are no 100% clean alternatives to reach other cities or countries.
Sustainable tourism faces one of its main challenges since only traveling implies more than 70% of travel’s environmental damage. Accommodation, tourist facilities, and services for visitors also generate an impact, which sustainable tourism seeks to reduce or cancel. Many travelers like to practice ecotourism and live with nature.
There’s no doubt that tourism is one of the most important industries of our time. Figures from 2019 indicate that travel generated 8.9 trillion dollars globally, more than 10.3% of the world economy, and 1 in 10 jobs depend on this industry. Therefore, everyone wants a piece of the cake, but there is ambition in any place where there is money. Sustainable tourism cares about ecology and people, and therefore an adequate distribution of the resources generated is one of its interests. Hence, the fair tourism concept, where everyone involved can make a living from their work supporting the local economy.
There are millions of people traveling every year, and there are places that we all want to see at least once in our lives. And that’s why some destinations receive too many visits, to the extent that the number of visitors ends up exceeding the local population. Travelers tend to seek authentic experiences, but it is sometimes easy to consume the known. When many people go to the same places looking for the same experiences, you have mass tourism.
And the problem is that this is so big that serving it implies sacrificing services for local communities. This situation already occurs in many European cities where they fight against this tourism that leaves no benefits. On the other hand, receiving so many visitors runs one of the most severe globalization risks: identity loss – this can cause the loss of traditions, customs, languages, dresses, or become consumer products for the visitor, dissociated from their original meaning.
Your role is essential but very simple, choose well, visit places with respect, and consume in businesses that fight for tourism to be fair for everyone. Here, at Towards-Sustainability, we will always keep you informed of the options that exist for you. When traveling, you enjoy and help your destination and the world with responsible tourism in the natural and cultural.