Sustainable travel isn’t just about mitigating the negative impacts of travel. When it’s done well, sustainable travel can also have regenerative effects across communities and environments and can help to leave places better than you found them. From creating jobs and supporting livelihoods to protecting wildlife and natural habitats, here’s why travel and sustainability are the ultimate power couple – when done right.
1. Sustainable travel supports job creation and livelihoods
On its own, mass tourism has a devastating impact on people and places, by driving out local businesses, exploiting communities, and destroying environments. But when you pair travel and sustainability, you create a positive economic force supporting communities all over the world. As one of the world’s biggest employers, the tourism industry contributes to 10% of the global GDP and supports more than one in 10 jobs globally. If the tourism industry stops, millions of people lose their jobs, businesses and livelihoods.
Sustainable tourism contributes by encouraging travellers to support locally-owned businesses. You can stay and eat in locally-owned accommodations and restaurants. You can do activities that help you meet the locals and get to know the culture, such as cooking classes or guided walks through heritage areas.
You can also choose to slow down and spend more time in each destination, meaning you build more meaningful connections and get to know the people and culture of each place you visit. You can also travel with sustainable group tours, which focus on smaller groups and real local experiences. When you travel sustainably, you not only enjoy more authentic and thoughtful experiences, but you also support local businesses, particularly those devastated by the COVID pandemic.
Diver deeper with Highlights of Singapore and Malaysia
2. Sustainable travel protects natural and cultural heritage
Mass tourism is known to devastate places of natural and cultural significance. When hordes of tourists sweep through an area, it’s no surprise it can cause long-term damage to natural habitats and historic sites. On the flip side, travel can have a positive impact on natural and cultural heritage – when it’s done sustainably.
When travellers pay entry fees to visit important sites such as national parks or ancient ruins, the money can go directly towards the preservation of these places. Without sustainable tourism, many communities simply do not have the resources to maintain and protect these sites. When done sustainably, tourism can encourage locals to protect and share their cultural heritage, while also providing enriching educational experiences to visitors.
We define a developing region as those with limited or no signs of over-tourism, those that will support a better spread of tourism such as secondary cities, and those we haven’t visited. If you want to be a sustainable traveller, you can choose to visit destinations in need of tourism such as the Balkans, Botswana or Nepal. If you want to travel to popular places like Paris and Venice, you can plan your trips for the off-season to help spread out the influx of travellers.
Discover more with Georgia and Armenia Uncovered
3. Travel and sustainability protect endangered species
We know unsustainable tourism often leads to the exploitation of wildlife such as elephant riding or tiger petting zoos. But when travel and sustainability get together, they play a pivotal role in environmental conservation. Not only does sustainable travel help educate travellers against animal abuse and help shut down exploitative activities, but it also helps reduce poaching, illegal fishing, and deforestation.
This is because sustainable tourism supports and funds conservation and rehabilitation programs for wildlife and natural habitats. Many communities can shut down poaching or deforestation because they have other income streams from tourism and also have the resources to protect these areas, such as rangers and security systems.
Discover more on Wonders of Kenya
4. Sustainability is becoming essential for travellers
Sustainability isn’t just a trend – it’s becoming a way of life for more travellers. Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report found that 73% of US travellers think sustainable travel is vital and 46% say the COVID pandemic made them want to pursue sustainable travel. The American Express Travel 2022 Global Travel Trends Report found that 60% of respondents want to book airlines with a carbon-neutral commitment and 55% have an interest in carbon-negative travel. A further 65% are trying to be more aware of sustainable travel brands.
As more people make sustainability a non-negotiable part of travel and the tourism industry rises to the demand, we’ll see travel and sustainability become firmly cemented as the ultimate power couple leaving a positive impact on the world.