Tourism is no doubt one of the biggest drivers of the global economy. However, with this comes great responsibility. This is the responsibility to ensure that influx of visitors does not harm the environment and local communities. Sustainable tourism seeks to do just this. It focuses on the long term and aims to limit environmental impacts. At the same time, sustainable tourism has the capacity to empower and enrich local communities.
In this piece, we will explore this form of tourism further. We will look at why it is needed and the positive impacts it can yield.
The Footprint of the Tourism Industry
From the mighty glaciers of Antarctica to the rainforests of Peru, tourism is everywhere. According to the World Tourism Organization, the global industry is worth around 8.6 trillion US dollars. It even continues to grow despite pandemic-related setbacks. But it can come with tons of negative impacts, more so for areas that are not well-protected. The impact of tourism can include the following:
Destruction of Areas with Unique Ecosystems
Uncontrolled mass tourism can lead to destruction of important natural habitats. This is especially true for fragile ecosystems like coral reefs. The same could be said for hidden gems deep in the rainforest or on mountain tops. It is not uncommon to see these areas damaged by people who have no respect for their natural beauty.
Displacement of Local Communities
Irresponsible tourists can cause negative economic and social disturbances to the livelihoods of locals. This forces locals to give up their way of life and relocate. Such is the sad case for most tourist spots hounded by companies looking to make profit. Locals are pushed out and replaced by resorts or other tourist attractions.
This displacement occurs more in developing countries where people are forced away. All too often, they can’t even enjoy their own culture or the attractions in their own country.
Adverse Effects on Biodiversity
Humans aren’t the only ones driven out of their homes due to irresponsible tourism. The same can be said for wildlife. In some cases, the influx of tourists can cause animals to abandon their natural habitats and increase pollution. Wildlife do this in search of more peaceful surroundings. This disrupts the delicate ecological balance. In turn, it leads to serious issues for the planet.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) seek to put a stop to this. UN SDG #15 calls to protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems. This is where sustainable tourism comes into play.
Sustainable Tourism: A Solution to Protect the Environment
“Sustainable tourism” is the key to responsible travel. When we say sustainable, we are referring to the responsible use of natural resources. The following characterize responsible tourism:
- Minimizes negative economic, environmental, and social impacts
- Generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhance their well-being
- Involves local people in decisions related to development and management
- Provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through better knowledge of the environment
- Respects local culture, tradition and the natural environment
- Protects and conserves natural heritage
- Develops educational tourism activities related to conservation
Among its many benefits are empowering local communities and protecting biodiversity.
Empowering Local Communities
Local communities are the heart and soul of any tourism destination. Yet, they are often the most neglected. Sustainable travel and tourism has the potential to change this and ensure that tourism practices will protect the local communities. It will give locals the stake they deserve in the industry. This involves organizations to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture training programs to give locals special skills. They can then use what they learned to thrive in a tourist-driven economy.
One of the importance of sustainable tourism is that it also lets tourists learn more about local cultures, traditions, and knowledge. Global sustainable tourism development can open up dialogue between travelers and locals. It also promotes mutual respect for each other’s beliefs and lifestyles.
No responsible form of tourism would exist without locals. After all, the places we consider vacation spots are their actual homes. This means that promoting sustainable tourism practices needs to benefit locals first.
To empower local communities, the following needs to happen:
- Training and job creation. Locals should be able to have access to trainings and jobs.
- Autonomy. Locals should be able to influence how their homes are developed for tourists.
- Setting of priorities. Initiatives must prioritize local conservation, welfare, and economic growth.
- Land rights. The priority should never be profit. Rather, it should be land rights and area preservation.
- Local culture and traditions. Support and respect for local culture and traditions should be ever present.
- Non-existent exploitation. Local communities should never have to worry about being exploited.
Preserving the Diversity of Life
The preservation of diversity is critical for life on Earth. Sadly, careless tourism has led to the downfall of many vital habitats. By taking action to implement policies to promote sustainable tourism, this will also lead to promoting conservation.
This includes the following:
- Drafting policies that limit the number of visitors
- Limiting tourist access to certain areas within the destination
- Encouraging tourists to be more mindful of their impact on ecosystems
- Implementing rigorous measures to protect wildlife species
- Fighting profit-driven projects that could harm ecosystems
- Promoting conservation practices to lower the risk of habitat destruction
- Raising awareness on why we must protect ecosystems
The Benefits of Ecotourism
We need to support sustainable tourism as the only way to ensure responsible travel. It helps to empower local communities, protect ecosystems, and current and future economic states. It also helps tourists appreciate their destinations. A little effort goes a long way in preserving our world for future generations. The quality of life for locals improves when travelers respect such practices.
When we travel responsibly, we share the planet’s resources wisely. We ensure that the places we visit remain beautiful and unharmed. Our duty doesn’t stop at protecting just our own environment. We need to care for those of other cultures and creatures as well. Sustainable tourism lets us do this and enjoy travel. This is the future of world tourism that we should aim to actualize.
Earthly Limited is a B Corp-certified company that strives to achieve these benefits too. They promote nature-based solutions that aim to do the following:
- Get rid of carbon
- Protect and restore biodiversity
- Support and empower local communities
Promoting Sustainability & Positive Tourism Impacts
Sustainable tourism is the key to preserving our planet and empowering local communities. Responsible travel initiatives help protect ecosystems. It also creates jobs and provides economic growth for locals. Earthly Limited is one example of a company committed to this mission to protect the Earth. By doing this, we can contribute toward a better future for all — people, animals, and planet.