What is Responsible and Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable, responsible, eco-friendly, green, mindful, slow, ethical, local, respectful… responsible and sustainable tourism come with a whole bunch of terms these days.

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But what do they actually stand for?

And even more important:

How can we become more sustainable when it comes to traveling?

The growing tourism industry

Angkor Wat temple at sunrise with pink and pruple sky and many people in front of it
Mass tourism in Angkor Wat: people from all over the world travel here to visit the ruins (including us, of course, that day)

The tourism industry is one of the biggest industries in the world and it´s constantly growing. Conventional tourism is cheaper than ever and mass tourism is arising in more and more places all around the world.

On the one side, with rising living standards an increasing amount of people can afford to travel the world. Only a small number of those tend to realize their actual impact on wildlife extinction and collapsing ecosystems.

The head of a male Komodo Dragon in the grass on Komodo Island
The Komodo National Park will close in January 2020 temporary to rehabilitate the ecosystem

On the other side, awareness of sustainable tourism is constantly becoming more popular as well as the desire for more sustainable traveling. Due to the media, the trend “flight-shame” (with it’s greatest supporter Greta Thunberg) is already supposed to slow down the flight industry.

Worldwide there is a huge alteration towards sustainable thinking happening. Many industries will need to adapt to those changes and so does the tourism industry.

Hopefully, this trend will continue as it is crucial for our future.

But what is responsible and sustainable tourism?

It seems like there is a lot of misconception and this might be due to unsettled definitions. As a result, travelers are confused or even think that sustainable tourism is an extreme or unrealistic effort.

Hopefully, we can clarify some points about this super-important topic.

Responsible tourism

A wooden staircase is leading the way through the jungle into the sunlight
We need to take responsibility for our ecological footprint

A definition of responsible tourism:

Responsible tourism is about making better places, for local people and tourists. One of the founding principles of Responsible Tourism was to firmly root in ethical values.

Responsible tourism means:

  1. volunteer
  2. shop locally
  3. be careful with animal-related activities
  4. respect local culture and people
  5. reasonable bargaining
  6. don’t give money to beggars
  7. educate others (in a friendly way)
  8. dispose of your waste properly

In conclusion, responsible tourism is ethical, mindful and respectful. Yet responsible tourism does not include to be environmentally sustainable.

Sustainable tourism

A definition of sustainable tourism is:

Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting somewhere as a tourist and trying to make a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy.

Corals displaying the word 'dead' on the beach of Gili Asahan
We collected dead corals to remind of the dying marine ecosystem caused by climate change

In terms of the environment, sustainable tourism is all about:

  1. reducing your footprint
  2. minimizing your waste
  3. avoid activities with unreasonable resource consumption
  4. travel light
  5. eat sustainable and healthy
  6. save water and energy
  7. bring your reusables (bottle, box, and cutlery)
  8. use public services

Hence, sustainable tourism can be compared with eco-friendly, green, slow and local.

Why and How to travel more sustainable

Flying, cruise ships and ferries have a huge negative impact on the earth, because of their vast CO2-emissions. We shouldn’t legitimate our impact with our personal compulsion to see remote places any longer.

Slow Tourism – Quality over quantity

Slow tourism means letting go of stress and speed.

On the one hand, it’s about reducing the number of miles, places and experiences. On the other side, it’s about the increasing depth of experiences, practice patience and peace of mind, improve cultural understanding and knowledge.

Local Tourism

Local tourism can be interpreted in different ways. In this article speaking of “local”, we mean “not far from your home”.

Why should I travel around my home?

Because we tend to lose the eyes of the beauty surrounding our home places by watching photos from all over the world.

It’s easy to believe nothing is interesting next to your house, your office or your school when scrolling through social media and blogs (yes, like ours).

But isn’t this sort of brainwashing?

For your next vacation, give it a try to see your home country from a tourist’s perspective (Lately, we recognized how many amazing destinations we haven’t seen around our hometown yet).

Collected flip flops on a beach in Bali show the term "footprint"
One day in Bali we collected over 600 flip flops on a single beach to write the term “FOOTPRINT”

Let’s support sustainable tourism together

If we take a poll asking you whether you prefer to be sustainable or conventional travelers, most would likely choose the former over the latter. This is the perfect example of a think-act-bias and to be completely honest with you:

The approach of sustainable traveling is new to us as well and we still figure out a lot of things, even though we knew about our impact for a long time.

Individually seen we only make a small difference in the big picture. But collectively, becoming more conscious about sustainable traveling can have a huge cumulative impact.

What changed our minds

Everybody wants change, but nobody wants to change.

We traveled through Southeast Asia while in Sweden a little girl called Greta Thunberg was striking for the climate.

At this point, we finally realized that our earth won’t compensate for our lifestyle forever. This is why we are willing to change not only our daily life but also cut emissions in the matter of traveling.

sun flower with sunlight in the nature
We have to preserve nature to survive

What we change

In the future, we do our best to travel with the smallest footprint possible and we take great pride in constantly improving and cutting down on waste and emissions. Therefore we…

  • stop air travel
  • travel shorter and slower
  • use more public transport
  • find alternatives to flying, ferries and private cars
  • support sustainable companies and businesses
  • support sustainable tourism
  • want to be good examples for more sustainability in the travel industry

How about visiting oversea destinations?

Nevertheless, we have dreams to visit other continents, but as we don’t want to air travel we decided to stay in Europe until oversea transportation is becoming more environmentally friendly. Maybe we can even realize our dream to sail the world one day.

TIP: If you are interested in sailing vacation as well then read our blog posts about sailing in Croatia and the best islands near Split.

young couple at the peak of a sailing boat yacht at the Adriatic Sea
Our goal is to sail the world one day!

Sustainable Tourism is a permanent learning process and we’re absolutely not perfect but. It’s not about becoming zero emissions nor zero waste, but it’s all about trying to make smarter choices that help to mitigate the negative impacts we create when we travel.

  • we want to make the tourism industry a greener industry
  • grow in the sustainable tourism community
  • change to a more sustainable lifestyle in general (support sustainable brands and eat plant-based)

Let’s improve and grow together!
Tell us in the comments below what you do to travel more sustainable!

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