In the 1950s, before the advent of commercial jets, about 25 million people took international trips. Over the decades, this number has exploded to more than 1.3 billion tourists trekking the globe. Researchers project tourism will continue its upward trajectory, reaching three billion people by 2050.
While this is great for the tourism and hospitality industry, destinations are feeling the negative impact, from Iceland to Peru. Why? Most tourists visit the same handful of destinations. In other words, even though the tourism crowd continues to grow, the number of sites attracting them has remained relatively stable.
The result? Overtourism.
What can you do as a traveler to promote healthier tourism practices? Here are some sustainable travel tips to help you make the world a better place one adventure at a time.
Sustainable tourism rests on three critical pillars:
What do we mean by environmentally-friendly practices? These are practices that emphasize reducing, reusing, and recycling.
How can you protect natural and cultural heritage sites through travel? By ensuring your tourist dollars benefit the communities you visit. In many developing nations, tourism leakage means just 30 percent of the money generated by visitors benefits local economies. In some countries, the percentage is half that at best. But you can help by working with organizations involved in local wildlife preservation, conservation, and building restoration efforts.
Finally, tourism can benefit local communities by supporting fair wages for employees, empowering entrepreneurial ventures, upholding indigenous rights, and more. What do these pillars look like in actual practice? Let’s take a closer look.
There has been much focus over the past year about eco-friendly tourism and ways to reduce your carbon footprint. As a result, airplane travel has come under assault, but there are ways to fly better. For example, the longer the distance you fly, the more efficient it becomes. Opting for nonstop flights also helps because 25 percent of airplane emissions come from takeoff and landing.
Besides flying smarter, there are plenty of ways to travel more slowly once you reach your destination. Consider a hiking or cycling tour of the countryside instead of an automobile tour. And for longer trips within a country? Instead of a plane, why not take a train?
You’ll gain a vivid snapshot of a local culture and a deeper appreciation of sense of place at a slower pace of discovery. And all while decreasing your carbon footprint. What are some of the best places to take a train instead of a plane? Southeast Asia, East Africa, China, and India.
Have you ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? If not, get ready to feel disgusted. It’s a massive swirling pile of trash extending thousands of miles in the Pacific Ocean. Comprised of disposable plastic bottles, grocery bags, and more, it will take hundreds of years to break down, leaving dangerous microscopic pieces of plastic in its wake. And it’s already wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems.
Fortunately, the small decisions that you make at home and abroad can add up to significant positive effects. How can you get started? Purchase recyclable glass bottles that you can fill with locally purified water as you travel. Pack collapsible totes to use while visiting shops and street markets.
These travel hacks not only reduce plastic waste but decrease your carbon impact since plastics rely on petroleum-based ingredients during the manufacturing process.
Many tourists enjoy giving candies, trinkets, or other small items to locals when they visit. But these little gifts can prove damaging to communities. For example, in some areas of the world, the first English words many children now learn are, “Give me.” These words perfectly illustrate some of the unintended consequences of improper giving — begging, a culture of dependency, and community conflict.
Fortunately, there is a better solution. One that allows travelers to express generosity in meaningful ways that help developing communities.
Look for reputable local organizations that address real needs within a given community through social welfare programs. These organizations may exist on the local level, or you may need to look to an international group. When you work with a sustainable, responsible travel company, they can help you connect with the right organizations for your next family trip, which brings us to another point.
Working with a reputable company that promotes sustainability in travel remains one of the best ways to ensure you’re contributing to positive change while still enjoying the benefits of an enriching family vacation. So, do your research. As you look for a company, ask questions like:
If an outfitter that you’re considering working with can’t provide the answers to these questions, then keep looking.
Are you ready to become a sustainable travel hero? Great! We’re here to help. We founded Global CommUnity on the premise of creating better family vacations. We specialize in sustainable travel that benefits local cultures and allows you to explore the world one authentic, local experience at a time.
We’ll help you and your family find the off-the-beaten path destinations that’ll bring you closer to locals without contributing to overtourism.
Contact us to discuss your travel needs and how we can help.
Global CommUnity offers luxury family vacations to 35 global destinations. Each customized itinerary comes in both 4- and 5-star price points. Your family will enjoy opportunities to interact with a destination’s culture and people in profound ways. Explore Global CommUnity’s itineraries now and open the door to a compelling world of luxury family travel possibilities.