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What is Sustainable Tourism and How to Find it?

Sustainable Tourism, a growing trend, in the industry and travelers.

By victoria patricoloPublished 3 years ago 5 min read
Sustainable Luxury

Sustainability. Lately, I’ve been seeing this word everywhere. It's mentioned in every commercial from toilet paper to coffee beans. But what does it mean? In regards to tourism, it is very simple. When we travel, we want to leave the destination better off, than before we arrived. In other words, we want the community to benefit from our visit and not hinder its culture, nature, wildlife, or put a needless drain on the infrastructure.

Over the past year, I have been learning more and more about destinations that have adopted sustainable practices. I have listened to webinars and discussion boards with nonprofit travel organizations, multi-million dollar corporations, and small businesses, all of who are pursuing the practice of sustainability.

As consumers, we have been adapting to a more sustainable life. We recycle, we have reusable water bottles and shopping bags. We support local businesses. Some of us have gone a step further and have had solar panels installed or purchased an electric vehicle. As travelers, we can adopt similar habits. Making sure our well-earned tourist dollars are spent on tour operators, hotels, and transportation companies that are initiating sustainable practices. But what does that mean exactly?

Here are some questions we can ask, to identify a business as sustainable:

  • How does the company give back to the community? Perhaps they volunteer to clean up the area or donate materials to schools or hospitals.
  • Do they hire their employees from within the community?
  • Do the tour operators or resorts treat their natural environment and wildlife with care?
  • Do the restaurants source ingredients from local farmers or wineries?
  • Is the resort LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or perhaps they use a renewable energy source to generate power.
  • Do the airlines, transfer companies, or tour operators donate to organizations to minimize their carbon footprint? (organizations that plant trees to offset carbon emissions)

How and where do we find these resorts and tour operators that follow these criteria? More and more OTA’s (online travel agencies) are beginning to identify resorts and tour operators as sustainable. They may use a special icon or have them come up in a keyword search (for example: Sustainable resorts in Miami). I believe we are in the early stages of this massive effort to identify these properties. As the demand increases for consumers to recognize sustainability as a choice and become more conscious of its practices, we will see more travel agencies and OTAs identify this as a segment of tourism. Perhaps even include their protocols in their listings.

Here are some simple tips to consider before booking your next trip:

1. Here are my top 3 go-to websites for Sustainable Tourism updates:

  • WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council). An organization that partners with industry professionals, Governments, and destinations to reduce poverty, create jobs, and economic development.
  • GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) This organization has developed criteria for the tourism industry, streamlining a cohesive practice for organizations around the world.
  • Sustainable Travel International a hands-on organization that assists destinations to get on a path to sustainability. It is also a great source to learn about carbon offsetting and sustainable trends happening right now around the world.

2. When you find a hotel or resort that appeals to you, go to their website and look for their page on sustainability, it may be at the bottom, listed with contact information. This page will describe the actions they have taken to become sustainable. You will be surprised to learn that many high-end resorts have either adapted these practices organically or are working towards a more sustainable future. I would bet if it is a newer resort or tour operator they are more than likely, 100%, in on sustainability but may not advertise it.

3. I look for tours that immerse the guests into the community. Walking tours always provide valuable insight into a destination. They are usually led by guides that have lived in the area for a long time and have developed a love for its special qualities. A visit to a farm or school, a cooking class with a local chef. I also like to include a hike or nature walk at a local park. Essentially, the idea is to take a step beyond the regularly visited attractions. By doing so we learn much more about the destination and feel a deeper connection with the people and their environment. They are very rewarding and memorable experiences. Some tour operators and resorts may even offer a reusable water bottle as a perk, thus reducing the need for throw-away plastics.

4.Thinking about a cruise? Try a smaller cruise ship company. These ships only have on average 100 passengers or rooms. They offer deluxe accommodation, meals, drinks, and experienced guides and lectures. They offer unique destinations and travel to ports that larger ships may not have access to. Some examples are:

  • Lindblad Expeditions - (National Geographic experts on every voyage)
  • Swan Hellenic
  • European River Cruises. These have become very popular and are another wonderful alternative. They offer smaller boats, with all the amenities of a large cruise ship. Large staterooms with balconies, and personal excursions to villages and cities along the way.

Most cruise companies are now offering sail dates beginning this spring or fall 2021.

5. If you don’t have the time or the desire to do the research. The best alternative is to go through a travel agent. Express your desire to stay at sustainable resorts. Outline some of the criteria you are looking for. It is the agent’s job to research and find those resorts that fit your needs. They are experienced and will qualify you based on your budget and likes. They will also put together a comprehensive itinerary and often have access to exclusive rates that you won’t find online. All this at no additional costs to the consumer. The benefits of using a travel agent are numerous.

  • Ability to book as far as 2 years in advance.
  • Some offer payment plans.
  • Travel agents assist passengers while at a destination. During the onset of the pandemic, they proved to be an immense resource for getting their passengers home safely.
  • A travel agent is one source, for all your travel needs.

6.Purchase souvenirs from local vendors and leave generous tips.

7.Visit Sustainable Travel International and take the pledge to be a responsible traveler.

8.Calculate your carbon footprint. And connect with reputable carbon offset organizations.

9. And, of course, the best for last. Follow me on social media and subscribe to my blog. ConsciousTraveler.CO

I hope this article has been helpful and you will consider becoming a Conscious Traveler for your next adventure.


travel tips

About the Creator

victoria patricolo

In April, 2020. I launched ConsciousTraveler.CO. A travel blog focused on sustainable luxury tourism, unique experiences, travel tips and trends. I hope to inspire people to travel again...so much depends on it.

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Comments (1)

  • Emelia Beam2 years ago

    These are all great tips! Research and planning ahead are definitely crucial! As a traveler myself these are things I'm also hoping to write more about.

victoria patricoloWritten by victoria patricolo

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