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How To Support Sustainable Tourism

How To Support Sustainable Tourism

Take a moment to think of the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen while on vacation. Maybe your mind went to the sandy shores of a gorgeous beach, the lush greenery and amazing wildlife of a vast forest, or the colorful market of a culture completely different from yours. Now, imagine those beaches being filled with trash, that greenery being killed, that wildlife being harmed and those local vendors struggling financially…pretty grim, right? Unfortunately, typical practices of mass tourism directly contribute to all of these outcomes. Thankfully, ecotourism—defined by The International Ecotourism Society as responsible travel practices which protect the environment, sustain the welfare of locals and promote the education of tourists—offers travelers a path to minimize any negative impacts they might have on their destinations. So, before booking any of your summer travels, use this ecotourism-inspired guide to ensure that your vacation contributes to a more eco-friendly, sustainable tourism industry.

  1. Plan eco-conscious activities. There are tons of typical vacation adventures that can be modified into eco-friendly fun. Planning a car-based nature tour? Opt for a hiking or biking tour instead. Thinking of taking a boat ride? Try kayaking, paddle boarding, or surfing. Wanting to go wine tasting? Head to a vineyard that practices sustainable agriculture. Looking to unwind? Book a day at an eco-friendly spa.
  2. Book eco-friendly lodging. Typical hotels contribute majorly to negative environmental impacts through the water land they use, the waste they produce and the carbon emissions they create. So, instead of supporting a large hotel chain, book some eco-conscious accommodations. Use platforms like Regenerative Travel to search sustainable luxury resorts, EcoHotels to find eco-conscious hotels, or FairBnB to book a homestay that donates to local communities. But, no matter where you’re staying, try to reduce your contribution to water/energy use and waste production by taking shorter showers, bringing your own shampoo/conditioner in reusable bottles, reusing towels, and turning off lights and electronics when you leave.
  3. Support local economies. Sadly, much of the money which travelers spend on food, souvenirs and activities doesn’t end up supporting local economies, but instead ends up as profit for large companies. To promote the well-being of residents in a sustainable way, be sure to support local businesses, vendors and guides during your trip. For food, avoid large supermarkets or chain restaurants and buy from local markets or restaurants which locally source their ingredients. For souvenirs, avoid the cheap, mass-produced trinkets found in large gift shops and buy your items from local vendors and craftsmen instead. And for activities and tours, be sure to book a guide who is local to the destination you’re visiting. Additionally, use Pack for a Purpose to learn about supplies that you can pack as donations to local communities within different destinations.
  4. Protect natural habitats. As tourists, it’s our responsibility to be conscious and protective of the delicate well-being of the environments we’re looking to visit. For all natural areas, make sure not to litter, take rocks/plants as souvenirs, or stray off designated paths, as all these could lead to the damage of fragile plants, insects or habitats. Additionally, do some research about the type of environment you’ll be visiting to learn about specific practices you should use or avoid.
  5. Respect local wildlife. When traveling, it’s crucial that we as travelers understand and prevent the potentially negative impacts we can have on natural wildlife. Practices like attempting to touch and feed wild animals (including coral) disrupt their natural survival instincts and feeding habits—both of which can be life-threatening for them. Not to mention, you could risk getting seriously injured or contracting a disease in the process. Beyond this, there are many wildlife-based tourist attractions (such as riding elephants or swimming with dolphins) which promote unethical treatment of animals. Check out this guide for a full list of wildlife attractions to avoid.
  6. Use low-impact transportation. The massive amount of carbon emissions racked up by tourist transportation is one of the main reasons why travel has such a negative impact on the environment. To minimize your contribution, try to use more eco-friendly forms of transportation during your trip, like using public buses and trains, or walking and biking whenever possible. And, if you’re traveling within national borders, swap your plane ride for a train ride or road trip. But, if you have to hop on a plane, consider purchasing carbon offsets from websites like Sustainable Travel International to make up for your emissions by supporting global emission reduction projects.
  7. Immerse yourself in local culture. Gaining knowledge about a foreign cultures is the best way that we as tourists can develop the respect which motivates us to care for it. So, when traveling, be sure to stray off the typical tourist paths and participate in activities that allow you to truly learn about local cultures and landscapes. Try going on a guided tour, hitting a local museum, visiting a national park, volunteering for a local initiative, or even arranging to stay with a local in their home. 
May 14th 2024 Sabrina Castle

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