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What is Sustainable Tourism and how to practice it?

Every day we hear more and more about Sustainable Tourism and it is even a practice that is booming right now, but it is still an unknown topic for most people, so here we are to solve all those doubts and promote a greener, more respectful and sustainable tourism.

My name is Vanesa and I am the creator and writer of the blog La Ardilla Voladora, where we tell our readers all the tricks and details to know before visiting a place. This way, they will be able to organize trips in a simple way and at the best price, so that when they get to their destination, they only have to enjoy it.

A few months ago we created el LAVoratorio del Turismo Sostenible. LAVoratory with V as a small wink to the acronym of the blog. In this section of the blog, in which also participates Juan, expert in Renewable Energies, we want to make known a new way of traveling, more respectful and durable to make our readers go making that change of mentality without giving up anything. We write about sustainable topics related to tourism (such as accommodations, tours, travel, etc.) and we also publicize companies in the sector that have sustainable policies or are completely sustainable to make this transition easier for travelers.

So, if you like to travel and also want to do it in a respectful way, you've come to the perfect place. Here we go!

What is sustainable tourism?

We call sustainable tourism that which follows the principles of sustainability, making the least possible impact on the environment and contributing to the local economy and culture.

It may sound a little common or abstract, but if we expand this definition a little more, we will be able to understand it perfectly.

According to the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) Sustainable Tourism should follow the following principles:

  • Make optimal use of the resources the Earth gives us, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping with natural resources and diversity. This means that it would not be considered sustainable, for example, to be able to eat all kinds of fruit whatever the month we are in, because each fruit has a growing cycle and most of them are not available all year round.

  • The second premise is related to the socio-cultural aspect. To be considered sustainable tourism, the authenticity of the host culture must be respected, contributing to its knowledge, preserving its assets, both cultural and architectural, and protecting its history and life.

  • The last point is the economic aspect. We must make sure that we can do this activity in the long term, that is, that it generates stable employment, and that the money earned from this activity is well distributed and ends up with the local people. For example, there is a small island in the Caribbean where no cruise ships or boats are allowed to dock. Yet it is open to tourism and is run solely by local people and they are the ones who take the profits. Everything goes back home.

Based on these three principles, we can now know better what is sustainable tourism and what is not. Have you ever stopped to think about it?

The impact of the tourism industry

The concept of sustainable tourism would not have been born if these basic principles, which seem quite logical, had been respected from the very beginning of this industry.

The tourism sector is one of the largest industries in the world and plays a very important role in the socioeconomic and environmental development of the planet.

The problem is that every day it grows faster and faster and in an uncontrolled way, generating massive movements of people. In addition, visitors are becoming more and more demanding with their tourist experiences. All this generates that the tourist activity produces damages or deteriorations at an economic, environmental and sociocultural level, as they can be:

  • Increased pollution.

  • Deterioration of monuments, structures and environment.

  • Imbalance of the ecosystem.

  • Incite the modification of local customs to satisfy the needs of the tourist.

  • Overexploitation of natural resources.

  • Unstable jobs for residents (low and high seasons).

Therefore, it is important to know that our activity can have a negative impact on the place, even without realizing it.

How to practice sustainable tourism?

There is no specific, mandatory model that we must follow when considering sustainability in tourism, nor should we stop enjoying tourism. But whether we are travelers looking to discover new places and learn about different cultures, or whether we are a company or organization looking to attract as many visitors as possible, we must do it responsibly, with logic and, above all, being aware of our actions.

In this aspect, travel blogs like mine, play a very important role and we must be aware of this and try to make our readers aware that sustainable tourism is possible without having to give up travel as we are used to, just by making small changes. That is why, from LAVoratorio, we created a program of Sustainable Tourism Ambassadors. Those blogs or content creators who identify with the values we want to transmit, can have their badge on the blog and help their readers to take the step.

To practice Sustainable Tourism we only need to follow a series of principles:

Environmental principle

  • Use natural resources appropriately, thus facilitating their regeneration or reuse.

  • Protect and respect the different ecosystems.

  • Recycle and do not pollute.

  • Respect all socio-cultural guidelines imposed to protect ecosystems and the environment.

  • Reverse, as far as possible, environmental deterioration. Look for an electric car if you are going to move around the country, for example.

Sociocultural principle

  • Respect sociocultural diversity and local customs.

  • Promote racial, ethnic and religious equality.

  • Strive for economic and gender equality.

  • Give importance to people's quality of life; employment, health, education, etc.

Economic principle

  • Ensure responsible and appropriate business practices.

  • Seek new models of sustainable tourism development in each area.

  • Demand higher quality standards for products and services in relation to sustainability, which generates greater competitiveness and involvement.

  • Choose destinations that value tourist responsibility. Seek hosts and public institutions that favor the development of sustainable tourism models.

But if you read carefully all the principles, especially the socio-cultural and environmental ones, are things that we can do from home, in our society and in our environment. Logical principles that we should not only apply when we are on vacation, but in our day to day life as well.

If we follow these principles, we will be contributing one or more grains of sand to the world and we will be sure to make tourism a different activity, in a conscious, educational and respectful way with the environment.

And no, I am not asking you to change your way of traveling from one day to the next, because in many places it is still quite complicated. What I do ask is that you make small changes. On your next trip, rent an electric car or look for sustainable accommodation, shop at the local market instead of a shopping mall, look for activities that are respectful of the culture you are visiting. On your second trip, add another small change and so on until you achieve sustainable travel. If we all do that, step by step we will make the world a better place to know and to live in.

Are you ready to make your travels sustainable?

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