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What is Responsible and Sustainable Tourism

Eco-friendly, green, climate-neutral, mindful, slow, ethical, local, respectful… responsible and sustainable tourism come with a whole bunch of terms these days.
But what do they actually stand for?

And even more important:
How can we become more responsible and sustainable when traveling?

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The growing tourism industry

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

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)

On the one side, with rising living standards an increasing amount of people can afford to travel the world. Besides exploring new places, traveling might be a good thing when it comes to respecting different cultures and a better understanding of our planet.

On the other side, only a small number of tourists tend to realize their actual impact on global warming, 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

Nevertheless, the awareness of responsible and sustainable tourism is constantly gaining in popularity and will be the core topic of the worldwide tourism industry in 2020. Due to the media, the trend “flight-shame” (with it’s greatest supporter Greta Thunberg) is already supposed to slow down the flight industry for example.

Hopefully, the trend towards more sustainability will continue as it will be crucial for a future worth living.

But what does responsible and sustainable tourism actually mean?

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

We have made responsible and sustainable tourism our life-task and therefore answer some basic questions about it here.

Responsible tourism

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

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 can be a synonym to ethical, mindful and respectful tourism. Yet responsible tourism does not explicitly include to travel 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, climate-neutral, green, slow and local tourism.

Why and how to travel more sustainable

Flying, cruise ships and ferries have a huge negative impact on our earth, because of their vast CO2-emissions. We hope that in the future there will be an increasing number of tourists stop legitimating long-distance trips and cruise holidays with their personal compulsion to see the most remote places.

We know this isn’t easy at first glance, but it’s definitely worth achieving. Therefore we want to inspire you by making the sacrifice to stop air traveling (we never went on cruise holidays anyway) and make our journeys as sustainable as possible.

Slow Tourism – quality over quantity

Slow tourism means letting go of stress and speed.

On the one hand, the aim of slow tourism is to reduce the number of miles and places, as well as the frequency of experiences. On the other side, it’s about increasing the depth of experiences and opening the eyes to a completely new way of traveling.

With slow tourism, one can still travel the world but with decreased speed.

Regional Tourism

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

Why should I travel around my home country or even my home state?

The answer is simple:
Because we tend to lose the eyes of the beauty surrounding our homes by looking at photos from all over the world. In other words, people tend to believe that there is nothing interesting to see close to their hometown or even in their home country when scrolling through social media and blogs day after day.

Isn’t this sort of brainwashing and how can I travel regionally?

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 a sustainable or conventional traveler, most would likely choose the former over the latter. This is an 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 a long time ago.

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

How we changed our minds about traveling

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 at home but also cut unnecessary emissions in the matter of traveling.

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

What we changed (and will Change) to travel more sustainable

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 more regional and slower
  • use public transport preferably
  • search for 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 to travel sustainable to oversea destinations?

Nevertheless, we still have dreams to visit other continents, that’s for sure.

But as we don’t want to air travel anymore, we decided to stay in Europe until oversea transportation is becoming more environmentally friendly. Beyond that, maybe even our dream of sailing the world will come true one day.

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM TIP:
If you are interested in sailing vacation 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!

Summary

Responsible and sustainable tourism is a permanent learning process and we’re absolutely not perfect. In our opinion, it isn’t about going for zero-emissions nor zero waste. It’s about trying to make smarter choices that help to mitigate the negative impacts we create when we travel the world.

Our sustainable tourism goal:

  • 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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Anni and Timo
Anni and Timo

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