What Is Sustainable Tourism? 19 Ways to Be a Responsible Traveler

More and more people have discovered the beauty of travel, thus making the tourism industry a trillion-dollar industry. While tourism has a lot of benefits in our lives, the more the industry grows, the higher the negative impact on resources, pollution, and local communities.

It’s now more important than ever to stop and think about sustainable tourism to minimize the harm and maximize the benefits. We need to think about the way in which we travel.

Most environmental damage caused by tourism is produced by air travel through the emission of greenhouse gasses pumped into the atmosphere.

On an individual level, as travelers, we consciously or unconsciously contribute to destroying the environment through high consumption of resources, threatening natural habitats, and pollution of both water and land.

Tourists have also had a negative impact on local economies by spending their money on big international brands instead of the local businesses.

Everyone is talking about sustainable tourism – from the hotels to the tour companies and travelers. But what exactly does “sustainable tourism” even mean?

What is Sustainable tourism?

Simply put, sustainable tourism definition is tourism that minimizes negative social, economic and environmental impacts and generates greater economic benefits for local people.

So if you’re looking to practice sustainable travel then you should travel in a manner that respects a destination’s culture, environment, and people. Support the local economies and contribute to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage.

You may also come across other terms such as ethical travel, responsible travel/tourism, impact travel. All these terms simply have the same meaning of travel that has a positive impact rather than a negative one.

19 Ways to Be a Responsible Traveler

Do you want to change the way you travel and be more responsible? These 19 sustainable travel tips will help you minimise the negative effects on places you visit.

1. Do your research

Before you travel, do some research especially on the travel agencies that you want to use for your trip. Pick an agent that works with/supports the local communities in the country that you plan to visit.

2. Seek out green options

When picking your hotels, look for those that recycle or compost waste, and use renewable energy. You want to stay in a place that supports conservation. Eco friendly lodges are a good option as they are designed to have very little impact on the surrounding environment.

3. Try a homestay over a hotel

Speaking of green options, homestays are better than hotels. Find arrangements where you can stay with locals in their homes instead of staying in a hotel. Not only will you help reduce carbon footprints, but also get to know your hosts and experience their way of life.

4. Minimize bottled water

Be a responsible traveler and carry a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water every time you feel thirsty. All that plastic goes to waste and leaves a huge impact on the environment. If you don’t trust the water buy a travel-optimized purifying filtration system and purify your water on the go.

5. Conserve water

Many travelers tend to waste water as they enjoy their vacation by taking lots of luxurious long showers than they would while at home. On average, hotel guest uses more than 200 liters of water every day. Conserve water where you can, and take short showers.

6. Support the local economy

Buy souvenirs direct from local craftspeople instead of buying them at the airport shops. Enjoy local dishes at local restaurants rather than international chains that you can enjoy when you go back home.

7. Be respectful

Every country has its own culture, religion, and beliefs. Respect and learn from them. People in different places do things differently. Don’t try to assert your own beliefs in a foreign country. Adhere to local dress codes and be respectful to the locals.

8. Do not purchase or eat endangered species

Even though indulging in local delicacies and artifacts can be lots of fun, be mindful of what you pay for. Don’t eat food made from endangered species such as turtle egg soup or buy illegal-trade animal souvenirs, such as crocodile handbags, seashells or anything made from ivory.

9. Avoid animal exploitation

Practice responsible travel and go see animals in their own environments, displaying natural behaviors instead of places that hold animals in captivity such as zoos. Don’t pay for wildlife performances, animal rides or use of animals as photographic props.

10. Offset your impact

Reduce your carbon footprint as you travel by choosing fuel-efficient airlines. Fly economy and offset your air travel. Offsetting is where you pay a company to invest in an ecologically beneficial project, such as planting trees or developing renewable energy, for the purpose of compensating for the carbon added to the atmosphere. So instead of spending on a business ticket, get an economy seat and donate the extra money.

Related article: How to Live More Sustainably

11. Give, the right way/Do not give pens, candy or other gifts to local children

It may seem like a good idea to bring sweets, used clothing, books, and toys to hand out to children and villagers in developing nations. Unfortunately, this doesn’t have any real impact and only promotes a culture of dependency and begging. If you want to promote sustainable tourism, support a local charity.

12. Say no to plastic

I’m pretty sure you’ve seen pictures and videos of massive piles of plastic bottles and bags stretching across thousands of miles of oceans around the world. Don’t add on to this pile by using more plastic go for reusable bags and bottles instead.

13. Don’t litter

Always be conscious of the environment as you enjoy your trip around the world. Try and leave a place cleaner than you found it by always throwing away trash the right way. If you can avoid having any trash in the first place the better!

14. Reduce energy consumption

No matter where you are, whether it’s in a hotel, an ecolodge, staying with the locals, always do your best to reduce the amount of energy you consume. Unplug your chargers, turn off the lights, use water efficiently, etc.

15. Always ask before taking photographs

What is a good trip without photos to prove it? While photos are an important part of your trip, be careful how you take them. Don’t take photos of locals without their permission. If someone says no, respect their wishes.

16. Educate yourself about the place you are visiting

Don’t travel to a place blindly. Learn about the country, it’s people and their practices. When you educate yourself, you will be more mindful of their culture and interact better.

17. Do not support the illegal drug trade or the sex trade

No matter how tempting it may be, don’t engage in these illegal practices.

18. Take public transit

Decrease your carbon footprint by enjoying the local public transport system instead of hopping onto an uber or renting a car whenever you need to move around.

19. Support a local charity or organization

Support responsible tourism organizations that are making a noticeable effort to make tourism more responsible. These can be either in the places you visit or back home.

Being mindful of how we travel means that we become more responsible for the world around us. We not only consume its beauty and wonder we also take good care of it and sustain its existence.

About to book a flight to your next dream destination? Apply the above tips and promote sustainable tourism during your next trip.