Is there such a thing as sustainable tourism?
Is sustainable tourism really possible? Or is it just a buzzword designed to restore the reputation of the tourism industry and to make some of us feel less guilty about travelling?
Skeptics find little meaning in the term “sustainable tourism”. In fact, considering what such a kind of tourism would imply — a win-win-win situation that holds for travellers, community hosts and the environment — the concept may seem somewhat overconfident. Not leaving aside the possible benefits of tourism to local hosts and conservation, the C02 emissions alone generated by international flights should be enough to acknowledge that most of our holidays involve quite unsustainable practices.
That being said — and even though we agree that most tourism depends on the consumption of fossil fuels — it is also true that more thoughtful forms of tourism can certainly be achieved.
Coined by Mexican architect Hector Ceballos-Lascurain in July 1983, the term “ecotourism” has been subject to diverse interpretations. Popular definitions point towards a class of tourism that provides for environmental conservation and include meaningful community participation, while simultaneously being profitable and self-sustaining.
There seems nevertheless to be a huge disparity between what policy-makers, travelers and locals consider as “ecotourism”. It is also quite common to find the term associated to a broader idea of adventure and nature tourism.
Defined in the 2002 Capetown Declaration, “responsible tourism” is about recognizing that great places to visit are firstly great places to live. Giving precedence to people, their quality of life and the conservation of their natural and cultural heritage, responsible tourism identifies the issues that matter locally and to which tourism can bring some benefit — such as local economic development, social inclusion, wildlife conservation, animal welfare or employment conditions.
Instead of thinking about “responsible tourism” by means of fixed definitions, one should rather understand that this responsibility is dynamically shared between local governments and institutions, tour operators and travellers themselves. By combining consensus about which are the most pressing issues that need to be addressed with the openness to collaborate toward common goals, tourism will reach its maximum potential of delivering outstanding experiences that benefit both locals and visitors without damaging the local environment and culture.
Find out what you can do to become a responsible traveler in one of our next articles, to be published soon.
10 Tips to becaome a Responsible Traveler - Part I
10 Tips to becaome a Responsible Traveler - Part II