We have heard all the buzz words haven’t we? – responsible, sustainable, low impact, eco-friendly. You name it – they are all out there. There are also myths circulating as to what sustainable and responsible tourism means.But one thing is for sure: these themes are important to our guests and our businesses and environmental pressures are depending on us to act for tourism to survive.
Sustainable tourism, however, is not just about the environment or community-based tourism; it is much more than that.
One of the best examples of sustainable and responsible tourism in action in countries like New Zealand. This country has made sustainable tourism, their purpose and a significant platform for their country. They are committed to standards for tourism businesses and communications to every traveler that visits New Zealand.
New Zealand’s sustainability communication to every guests coming to the country.
For you to understand better, let’s break all of these down to know what sustainable and responsible tourism means for tourism companies, how you can stay informed to make wiser decisions for your business, and how you can understand your guests’ point of view better.
Sustainable tourism and responsible tourism are generally the same thing. But if we are to dig deeper, responsible tourism is the action, and sustainable tourism is the outcome of those actions. Responsible tourism involves the accountable and ethical actions of travelers, tourism companies, suppliers, governments, and NGOs – all bodies. The result of those efforts? Is sustainability.
To be truly sustainable, every tourism business needs to look at four distinct areas:
This is the aspect of sustainability that receives the most news for good reason, given our environmental crisis around the world. It includes:
Good examples of environmentally sustainable tourism companies:
Eagle Wing Whale views themselves as a conservation company that just happens to do whale watching tours and sees to it that with every tour, they are a part of the solution to reduce carbon footprint. Carbon neutrality is one of their top goals, so they measure the carbon footprint of every one of their staff members. This video explains who they are.
Another example is the sustainable efforts of Hilton hotels, such as installing measurement tools for energy and waste in their 300 hotels and challenging stretch goals and plans to achieve it.
This pertains to the support of local people, animals and communities to ensure they are treated fairly, including:
A good example of a locally sustainable company:
TigerTrek, a tour company in Laos, recognized that all the tourism dollars were flooding to the province of Luang Prabang where Luang Prabang, a world UNESCO heritage site, is located, while many surrounding villages in the province are still struggling. 80% of the population is subsistence farmers, and some villages don’t even have running water.
It is this disparity that prompted the launch of Fair Trek to bring tourism dollars to these villages and help residents with long term employment and personal development. They built hiking trails and Airbnb accommodations where the funds go back to the community. These guys are committed to a cause and communicate it very well on their website.
This area of sustainable and responsible tourism includes:
If tourism is not financially profitable, it will not be sustainable. Financial growth is vital for future investments in infrastructure, employment opportunities, and management of traffic, pollution and every facet of tourism. Making money is not a bad thing; it’s a necessity that allows you to offer jobs, pay your staff, and make business improvements, all while in the face of more challenging tasks like environmental sustainability.
You 100% play a role in sustainable tourism.
It starts with:
Start with your goals. What facets of sustainable tourism are essential for your business, values, guests, and future?
Sustainable and responsible tourism is the responsibility of all of us. Our voice – where we spend our money and what we chose to create for our businesses – is our power.
We have more tips and tools for sustainable tourism in upcoming articles, sign up to our newsletter here to be kept up to date.
Dorene Wharton is a tourism strategist, marketer, coach and full-time traveler with a 25-year career working in all areas of marketing and sales. She left her corporate job with Fortune 500 hospitality brands to start Travel Life Media to help hotels, tour, attractions and event companies improve their marketing, live their brand with a purpose and make money.