Tourism is one of the most profitable sectors in many countries. For instance, Dubai (5.2% of GDP), and Malaysia (14.9% of GDP) have profited tremendously from their tourism programs. Tourism makes up 9.5% of the world’s GDP and indirectly supplies 11% of all jobs. By 2030, it is estimated that 1.8 billion tourists will be traveling the world. Hence, the profits from tourism are set to increase.
However, tourism has also led to the degradation of a lot of natural sites. You can look at Mount Everest as an example. Today, the world’s tallest mountain is laden with human waste and equipment. Not only this, but the mountain has more climbers than ever before. So much so that there are queues to climb the mountain now. However, the Government of Nepal, which profits tremendously off Mount Everest, can’t cut down on the number of mountaineers. Placing restrictions on the number of people who visit Mount Everest will result in massive losses for the tourism industry.
However, the degradation of these sites is precisely why they will, one day, become unattractive. Not only will they present an eyesore to visitors, but they will cease to be profitable completely. Hence, in the interests of continued profitability and ecological responsibility, we must preserve these sites through sustainable tourism.
Sustainable Tourism v. Ecotourism
Sustainable tourism is different from ecotourism, in that the former encompasses the latter. Ecotourism aims to minimize the negative impacts on tourism. Sustainable Tourism means to establish a system in which the environment preserves itself.
For example, ecotourism may include hiring local people to guide tourists for bird-watching. This can also include letting tourists stay in local rented homes. This contributes to the local economy and saves on resources.
However, sustainable tourism helps the environment by including sustainable means of transport within the tour. This can include efficient cars, bicycles, buses, and trains, etc. It also means providing eco-friendly products to tourists to buy and use, thus minimizing pollution.
Sustainable Tourism Guidelines
Remember that transportation is responsible for much of the world’s carbon emissions. Nearly 8% of global greenhouse gases are released due to tourism. If you travel responsibly, your trip may take longer, but you may end up hurting the environment a lot less. This is one of the most important ways that sustainable tourism preserves nature.
Remember that traveling by plane can produce nearly 20 times the CO2 per person than a train and 6 times that of a small car which carries 4 people. Hence, take the train if you can. Think before you fly.
When you’re traveling during your trip, use bicycles, local transportation, and walk when you can. This will help to support the local economy and reduce your carbon footprint. It will also help you take in the sights and sounds while you travel.
Keep in mind that choosing all-inclusive resorts is tempting, but they are usually operated by international, for-profit, chains. It’s better to choose an eco-resort that helps employ locals and builds eco-friendly buildings.
Also, try to find small hotels and bed-and-breakfasts instead of suites. These are run by locals and further employment in the region.
Finally, try to reduce space for your tent when camping. This will reduce soil damage and avoid waste. Use only as much water as you need and help the local economy by buying local food.
Get into contact with local people and learn from them. This will help you learn how to interact with the local environment. This will help you gain a better understanding of the world. Don’t insult the locals and don’t insist on doing things they forbid. While this may not seem related to sustainable tourism, it helps to promote harmony between locals and foreigners.
Avoid taking objects out of their natural habitat. This can include something as trivial as a shrub/plant or something as precious as a wild animal. Usually, certain laws prohibit these activities, yet there are examples of people buying endangered species to bring home. Make do with taking a photo; avoid disturbing ecosystems.
Also, avoid breaking off parts of cultural monuments to take home with you. This has led to the degradation of centuries-old buildings. No matter the protections that are afforded to a site, it’s your duty to not disturb it.
Avoid buying plastic objects since they have a high impact on the environment and don’t support illegal trade. If you do buy souvenirs, buy local products that are made out of perishable materials. Also, don’t buy anything of animal and plant origin. Here is a site you can visit to find out whether your souvenirs are ethically and legally sourced.
Impact of Sustainable Tourism
Millennials, in particular, are very conscious of their impact on the world. With carbon emissions, global warming, and climate change baked into their conscience, they are more aware than ever. Hence, sustainable tourism has grown more popular among the youth, who are more likely to travel than other age groups.
However, it’s going to take much more than that to make a big enough impact. Luckily, the world has gotten much smarter about tourism in the last decade. Technology has made it easier to plan your routes from one destination to another and to seek out better transportation methods. These include applications like Google Trips or websites like Lonely Planet. Other apps like Airbnb provide living quarters for people in every area like guest bedrooms in people’s homes.
Improvements like these and better, more eco-friendly developments like better modes of transport will improve sustainable tourism’s impact. However, it’s up to the individual tourist to do their part. It’s only when enough people will get on board that governments and businesses will adopt better practices.
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