Ethical tour operators and extra conscious vacationers have many options to choose from, but what do all these responsible-travel related phrases actually mean? Differentiating each one of these words is key to locate the earth-friendly tour choice that aligns with your values.
As responsible tourism will become more and more popular, buzzy journey phrases will also continue to pop up. But what does it all mean? And how can you comprehend it, if the tour you’ve partnered with or booked is definitely environmentally friendly (or sustainable)? Let’s review these terms individually.
The reality of green tourism
Most people automatically perceive the statement “green tourism” as friendly, however, and for unfortunate reasons, it’s regularly used incorrectly as a marketing tactic. Many hotels or activities could label themselves as environmentally friendly when they’re not really working towards any sustainability efforts, even the most simple tasks such as recycling or water-conservation programs.
This simple phrase attracted terrible results to the travel industry over the years due to rampant greenwashing. Some hotels started claiming to be “green” only because they would let guests reuse towels optionally, for example. A big number of companies tried to falsely declare to contribute actively to the planet.
Most hotels and excursions that definitely exercise some structure of sustainability will list their practices on their website. The greatest part of this is that you can easily dig in and see precisely what they are taking part in.
Organisations can take relevant initiatives like having recycling programs in place, support and encourage the use of environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, making room keys out of sustainable materials instead of plastic or having a water-conservation program.
Conscious-tip Terms like “ecotourism” and “sustainable tourism” refer to practices that attempt to reduce the negative impact of visitors whilst keeping away from biodiversity and respecting neighborhood culture, so make sure to keep an eye out for them.
Most tourism businesses that avoid to generalise and greenwash, will explain their specific methods of reducing environmental impact. Other terms you might come across are “Ecotourism” and “sustainable tourism”, let’s review what makes them different.
What ecotourism is about
As defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) in 2015, ecotourism consists of traveling responsibly to natural areas that aim to converse the environment, sustain the well-being of the local community, and involves interpretation and education. The education previously mentioned is meant to be inclusive for both staff and guests.
This term will rarely be used to describe tourism in urban areas because it’s based on getting out and connecting in a responsible way with the natural world. There is less of an emphasis on the place you stay, instead, the activities that you do whilst you’re there are the highlights.
Unlike other travel types, ecotourism’s sole purpose is to help tourists connect with nature.
People taking part in ecotourism review that the place they’re looking to visit is protected from external dangers or unnatural impact, and use local guides to get an authentic tour experience and make a positive impact to the native people. If you are searching for an African safari in Tanzania or take a journey through a rainforest in Asia, you should keep an eye out for ecotourism companies.
The definition of sustainable tourism
The concept of sustainable tourism is based on visiting a certain destination as a tourist and making an effort in leaving a positive impact on the environment, the community, and the local economy to guarantee sustainability. In a few words, there are environmental, financial and socio-cultural aspects of this type of tourism.
With slightly broader pillars of foundation than ecotourism, sustainable tourism consists of making certain that communities are being paid fairly and also includes visiting urban locations that you might have not thought would need environmental sustainability as well.
Different organisations aim to verify and show through certifications that hotels and tours are, in fact, sustainable. A few examples would include the Certificate in Sustainable Tourism by the GSTC and The Rainforest Alliance, the latter grants certifications to exhibit hotels and tours that are creating a noticeable effort in guarding the natural flora and fauna of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Image source: Whitepod Eco-luxury Resort.
Before choosing a new partner or booking any tour or resort you find, do your very own research and investigate the sustainable initiatives they are taking. Sadly, most accommodation and tour groups no longer participate in any sustainability efforts, however, this is changing, as the consumer demand rises.
Promoting conscious traveling
There’s an important role to accomplish as a responsible tour operator, before promoting conscious tours and journeys, dive in a little deeper to find out the number of ways your customers and your business can be kind to the Earth. Bear in mind these five tips:
- Take carbon offsets into consideration. Flying is a fundamental supply of pollution, but passengers have the option to pay a few dollars extra to offset their carbon emissions. Carbon offsets are every now and then presented through the airline when you purchase your ticket.
- Bus or train are safer than other popular transportation methods. Users could spend more time traveling by bus or train, this can radically decrease your carbon footprint. Once people get to their destination, they could consider taking public transportation, for example.
- Give importance to reusable bags. Carrying these type of bags and your very own cutlery (just like most people do at home) is a good call in case the tour includes any shopping for souvenirs or tasting local food.
- The relevance of local food. It can be high-priced and wasteful to produce meals in climates where certain food items are not grown. Choosing locally-made dishes gives users the best excuse to indulge in some delicious meals and delight themselves into a cuisine new to their palates.
- Set a no-littering policy. Bringing awareness to this topic will make people stop and think twice before unnecessarily consuming and trashing. This especially includes food, as it can damage local ecosystems as the local wildlife could begin feeding off “people food” rather than its usual diet.
To wrap it up
New information has continued to come out about the way tourism could influence local ecosystems and economies negatively, for instance, a study on how tourism is way worse for the environment than previously thought mentions that around 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions could be accounted by tourism.
From what you’ve learned in this article, we hope that you’ll use this information to do your best in making a positive change. Share with us, what’s your best piece of advice for other tour operators looking to find legitimate businesses to partner with?