Sustainable tourism has become one of the biggest trends in tourism. People are looking to minimize their impact, hoping to find places that make for memorable vacations and also where they can make a difference and show their respect for local cultures. Fortunately, a number of places are more than willing to open their doors.
What is sustainable tourism?
Sustainable tourism is a form of eco-tourism. The point is to leave as small a footprint as possible while at the same time supporting local culture. This is a natural outgrowth of the “pack it in, pack it out” philosophy but carried to another extreme. Here the tourist is actively concerned about his environmental impact. Given the harm that people have done to the environment, it is understandable that people are worried about the environment and their carbon footprint. This is especially relevant in places which are threatened due to global warming and from being so popular with tourists.
In one way, sustainable tourism is a way to see threatened areas where global warming has done the most damage while at the same doing something to possibly protect those same areas. Sustainable tourism and sustainable travel is being mindful of where you choose to travel, how you get there, and all of the choices you make while you are visiting.
What is a LEED hotel
Tourists have begun choosing hotels that feature Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design designs. LEED designs look to inspire builders to make their buildings more ecologically friendly, with designs that reduce power usage as well as utilize local materials in their construction. This can mean anything from simply reducing power usage to finding ways to actually create their own power, such as through solar panels and wind turbines. LEED is making a positive effect worldwide as architects look for ways to make their buildings more eco-friendly.
As tourists are frequenting LEED hotels, local builders are responding. For tourists this has meant asking what are some sustainability guidelines for new hotel builds. This means that local materials are used in preference to materials that must be shipped in. Solar panels and wind turbines are used to power the building as is cooling by natural means rather than fans and air conditioning. This also means the building must be designed to create as little pollution as possible, and that any waste must be dealt with as efficiently as possible.
Rather than limiting creativity, LEED standards have inspired architects and builders to really look at the local culture to determine how they can use local materials, employees, and techniques. The goal is to create tourist locations that tourists enjoy and tell their friends and family about, which encourages more tourism to the location. Builders have sometimes found using local materials to be inspiring, especially as it adds those touches of authenticity that tourists love while showing some respect to the local culture. This has created a boom in eco-tourism that has made small out-of-the-way spots immensely popular.
Over-populated tourist destinations
With global warming and over-visited tourist spots, travelers have begun looking for places to visit that may not be around much longer. There are scores of examples of destinations that are being destroyed due to heavy tourism. This creates a catch-22 where even more visitors come to see these places while they still can. “Last chancers” are visiting in mass to places such as Machu Picchu in Peru, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, Bali, Galápagos, and many more places.
The impact of travel to Costa Rica
Costa Rica has long been a favorite for its lush jungles and gorgeous beaches. It has become more famous for the threatened plant and animal species in the area. The influx of tourists has created a number of other issues due to the age of the local vehicles. As tourists swarm to the area, those vehicles see more use. Being they are not up to current emissions standards, this increases pollution levels and further damages the eco-system.
Kenya’s issues with excess visitors
Kenya has always been a favorite of ecologists due to the diversity of life on its savannahs and mountains. This interest has also been its biggest bane as tourists are causing excess littering and pollution. They also interfere with local cultures. Kenya has been the focus of poachers and foreign hunters interested in trophy kills. This has created ecological and cultural issues that have recently been the focus of efforts to return Kenya to a more pristine state.
Tourists visiting the Curonian Spit
Lithuania is an interesting choice given its European location, but its low-lying nature makes it susceptible to flooding should oceans rise too much higher due to global warming. People recognize Lithuania for its beaches, native bird populations, and water sports locations. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage location due to the Curonian Spit, a long peninsula known for its beaches. Tourists have been flocking to it before it disappears under the waves. This causes new problems for the area.
Visitors impact the Atacama Desert
Chile is another example, with its number of great tourist locations. The Atacama Desert is arguably one of the most fragile due to its location and uniqueness. The desert is very dry. Plants and animals have adapted to survive the desert. Many value the desert for its specific ecological niche. However, interest from tourists has increased due to its proximity to a number of major ocean currents. This has been the greatest threat as the nearness of a potentially rising ocean could swiftly eliminate the desert if oceans rose by any degree. This has created a lot of interest and visitors.
The impact of travel
Intentionally or not, masses of visitors consume tangible and intangible resources in these areas. They often:
- Exploit freshwater reserves
- Create excess pollution, smog, litter
- Deface statues, make graffiti, etc.
- Consume excess energy
- Introduce non-native species
- Impact wildlife and green spaces as the areas attract more hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions
What is the future of sustainable tourism to protect the world’s resources?
The future of sustainable travel means that more locations will be looking into LEED certification. Travelers will become more diligent about choosing low-impact eco-conscious means. Sustainable travel will become more of a focus.
It’s important to understand the significance of minimizing our travel impact. Sure, we can all turn off the lights and reuse or towels. But it’s important to choose places where we can minimize our impact. Thomson is one company that now has a focus and commitment to being sustainable. They offer water-saving, energy-efficient and many other eco-sensitive ways to minimize their impact.
Planning your holiday
It’s valuable to consider places where you can be mindful of the way in which you will impact the area. More awareness to places on the threatened list does two things. It helps bring awareness to help conserve the area but also creates more interest and traffic.
Sustainable tourism is a way to help ensure our future generations will be able to see all of the places we are able to enjoy.