As we travel, we need to consider the surrounding environment, local communities, culture, and heritage of the places we visit.
What is sustainable tourism?
According to the World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism is “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.”
Sustainable tourism can include the following:
- Maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
- Respecting the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserving living cultural heritage, and traditional values.
- Accessible cultural education and training to learn about inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
- Ensuring viable economic opportunities by providing socio-economic benefits for local businesses.
- Offering social services to host communities and contributing to poverty alleviation.
- Promoting conservation by being active in the socio-economic involvement of local populations.
What can you do as a traveler?
Sustainable tourists can reduce the impact of tourism in several ways:
- Learn about the culture, environment and business climate of the communities you visit
- Make an effort to understand and respect local cultures, their expectations and values
- Support businesses that conserve cultural heritage and preserve the environment by following good eco-practices
- Volunteer time to teach local residents about conserving the environment
- Buy ethical or native products that can help support the local economy
One way to best connect with locals is to temporarily live with them, or frequently visit their close-knit community. As an integrated traveler, you will learn first-hand about their culture, cuisine, beliefs, values, and improve their economic outlook by contributing your expertise and resources to help sustain the community.
The social impact experiences can provide a deeper and more meaningful experience for travelers looking to connect with other cultures. Moreover, the local residents will benefit directly from sustainable tourism in their community, which can become an integral part of sustainable travel.
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