What is Sustainable Travel?
“Sustainable travel” term has been used and around for decades, yet has gained momentum over recent years due to increased focus on the need to protect our planet, plus the massive increase of people now travelling is impacting our planet.
Sustainable travel derives from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) sustainable tourism term of “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”. With tourism referring to “the activity of visitors, and a visitor is a particular type of traveller and consequently tourism is a subset of travel” (UNWTO).
Ultimately as a traveller, it means to provide current and future positive impact to the natural environment, support local communities and cultures, whilst ensuring economic benefits are sustained within local communities.
The meaning of sustainable travel are covered under the three pillars of:
- People – social connections, communities, cultures
- Planet – environment, animals, nature
- Profit – economy
From an individual’s point of view, it’s about making positive decisions when you travel, to ensure local people and the natural environment are both benefited, whilst providing positive funds stay within local communities.
When traveling, it’s about firstly being aware of all three pillars, and how they can interact and link with each other. Then it’s having the behaviours and taking actions, which provide positive impacts towards those pillars, for both the current state and also future state into account.
Who’s Responsible for Sustainable Travel?
Not one person, community, organisation, or country is in charge of ensuring sustainable travel. We each individually need to contribute to our longevity on Earth. We as travellers need to positively contribute to our globe and communities, by taking small actions every time we travel and changing our habits.
Whilst there are various organisations with a mission and purpose to provide guidelines for properties and destinations to adhere to sustainable practices, these are independent and not mandated across the globe.
Sustainable travel organisations:
- Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)
- Green Destinations
- United Nations World Tourism Organisation
There are also certifying bodies and guiding principles which allow destinations, properties, and providers, to meet certain sustainable practices and standards. These principles are non-mandatory for destinations, properties and providers to adhere to, yet beneficial so the providers can proudly display and inform stakeholders, including travellers, that they provide sustainable practices.
Organisations which provide accreditation and guiding principles:
- Global Sustainable Tourism council (GSTC)
- United Nations Sustainable Development
- Sustainable Development Goals
- Global Code of Ethics for Tourism
- Green Destinations
Change in current travel habits
Around 80% of travellers want to travel more sustainably, yet don’t always know where to start, or how to play their part in improving our planet. The first step is being aware of what we individually need to do to contribute so we make a positive impact when we travel.
It is about how you treat and connect with people, and what trace you leave behind. It goes beyond carrying a reusable straw & water bottle, and reusing your hotel towel, also simply paying to offset the carbon emission on your plane ticket. It could mean being less selfish when travelling and posting less photos on social media, rather than embracing and welcoming opportunities when we travel and be present in the moment. Possibly stepping outside our comfort zone and being more thankful to the globe around us whilst we explore each destination.
Taking ownership of how you contribute to the long term sustainability and regeneration of the current state of our planet, is in your hands, so that you and future generations can continue to explore our gorgeous globe.
Changing your travel habits begins when you research destinations, where to travel to, when to travel, and how to travel. Then being aware when you are travelling of where you spend your money, how are you treating the natural environment and local people and communities.
Items to consider:
- Travel during off peak seasons
- Transportation methods that are better for the environment; train, bus, bicycle
- Accommodation that considers carbon emissions, waste management and employ local people
- Tours and activities which support local communities (both financially and wellbeing) and are authentic
- Being conscious of the natural environment and animals around you
- Where you spend your money at a destination, opt for locally owned over global providers
- Take time to understand and learn local cultures and build relationships with local people
It’s about thinking of the future traveller just like you, and ensuring your habits and actions leave a destination better than when you first visited.