Our travels have allowed us to enjoy the unique wonders of nature. Not only above but also below water. We have also been introduced to extraordinary cultures. Since then, travelling has enriched our lives enormously. It has changed our view of the world. And we have learned to appreciate the little things in life more. We are now better able to see things in perspective and we have become more patient. And we have met many extraordinary people through our travels.
Numerous studies worldwide have shown time and again that travelling makes people happy. But (other) studies also show that there is a downside to our travels. Most people already realise that flying has a bad influence on our climate. But apart from the climate, we as tourists also have a negative impact on the natural environment we visit. And on the community within that environment. Ultimately, this also affects us and the generations that follow us. Because the very aspects of travel that we enjoy so much will disappear if we travel irresponsibly.
What is sustainable tourism?
Sustainable tourism is travelling in a way that does not (or as little as possible) negatively affect the natural and cultural environment. It goes beyond limiting CO2 emissions etc. An important aspect is our impact on the local community, economy and culture.
Ideally, sustainable travel is even beneficial for the destination. In eco-friendly diving trips, for example, local entrepreneurs see “bread and butter” in a healthy water world. Dive centres will then encourage their communities as much as possible to take good care of the underwater world and protect the environment.
Sustainable tourism is only truly sustainable if it does not have a one-off positive effect. This form of travel must also offer good prospects for the travel industry in general and the host country in particular. So it’s not just about the here and now, but also about the longer term.
What should we pay attention to now if we want to travel sustainably?
In a separate blog about ways to travel as sustainably as possible, we will provide many practical tips. These tips are based on three general pillars of sustainable tourism:
The environment and nature
Think about minimising our ecological footprint, for example by flying less and using less water. And by reducing plastic waste, especially in the seas but also by not disturbing wild animals in their habitat.
This involves, for example, supporting community tourism projects: tourism that takes account of ecological, social and cultural sustainability. The management of these projects lies with the local community. Profits flow back to the same community.
This pillar focuses on supporting the local economy. For example, by staying at locally managed hotels (homestays, guesthouses, etc). Or by using local guides.
Sustainable travel: should we travel (far) or not?
In recent years, a social debate has arisen on recreational travel. For example, the term ‘flight shame’ came from Sweden. Here in our own country, too, more and more people started to wonder whether we should still be travelling (so much). In itself, this is a good question because it makes us aware of the consequences of travelling.
Sustainable tourism starts with awareness. Conscious of the short- and long-term impact we have on the environment and the local community. From this awareness, we must do what we can to travel as sustainably as possible. And to make others aware of the need to travel sustainably.
This does not happen overnight. There is no magic solution to eliminate the negative effects of tourism in one fell swoop. However, we can start thinking more consciously about our next trip. For example, about how we are going to get there, where we are going to stay, how we are going to get around, and what we are going to do there.
To travel or not to travel? We do not want to answer this question for you. After all, that is an individual choice you have to make. What is important is to realise how you can still travel sustainably during your holiday. Because if you take into account the practical tips to travel as sustainably as possible, there are only advantages. For you, it is a unique experience that gives you a better understanding of special cultures. For the host country you are visiting, it provides an economic perspective and preserves its fragile nature. In addition, sustainable travel increases the welfare of people and animals. A win-win relationship!