Sustainable Tourism Part I: What exactly is it?

Guest Blog
Have you ever considered sustainable tourism? Or though about the environmental and ethical impact of your holidays? Many people don’t think about holidays when they are switching to a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle.  At Earth Changers, we’re specialists in sustainable tourism. We’re often asked, “What exactly is that?” – in this blog we explain  what it is and what you need to know 

Sustainable Tourism Part I: What exactly is it?

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as,
“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”.

In a nutshell, sustainable tourism minimises negative impacts of visits, and maximises positive impacts, to create a net positive impact for the host communities and environment.

It may also be referred to as responsible tourism, whose definition is the more user friendly,
making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit”.

Sustainable Tourism & Travel Simplified 

It’s actually about how decisions are made in developing and delivering a tourism product or service, what is considered, and taking responsibility for those choices, their impacts and consequences.

Some see sustainable tourism as the Utopia ideal, responsible tourism as the decision-making process or journey to get there. Other terms used, such as conscious tourism, ecotourism and ethical travel, all have slight nuanced meanings.Sustainable or responsible tourism is not a type of tourism (like cruise, backpack or camping), nor does it have specific destination features (like city, beach or ski). Rather, it’s about how an organisation makes its decisions: Any type of tourism can be more sustainable.If a commercial organisation considers just its ‘bottom line’ profitability, it’s only looking at a part of its economic benefits. Sustainable tourism, like any sustainable product categories and brands here on Ethical Brand Directory, looks at the impacts of the “triple bottom line”: social, environmental and economic costs and benefits.Sometimes something may appear on the surface to be positive (eg. orphanage tourism) but in actual fact may be hugely negative (in this instance creating and enabling child trafficking, and life-long psychosocial issues).All tourism can have positives and negatives– but it’s often not clear cut black and white, but rather about trade-offs and balance between tens if not hundreds of impacts, including:

  • Economic impacts such as export foreign earnings, jobs, income, financial systems.
  • Social impacts such as education, health, culture – language, food, dance, arts, dress, heritage, buildings, behaviour, empowerment, equality, politics and peace.
  • Environmental impacts such as natural resources & capital, ecosystems, landscapes, (de)forestation, biodiversity, wildlife, preservation, conservation, waste, water, energy, building, pollution and climate change.

Sustainable Travel – Positive Impact Holidays 

At Earth Changers, we research & showcase the very best positive impact, transformative tourism for people to find & book trips that truly change the world. We feature life-changing places, with world-changing people, for extraordinary experiences with purpose.

It’s transformative tourism in action: The tourism enables gains to be shared by community and conservation beneficiaries, and the tourist has a fantastic experience.

Sustainable Travel – Trip Options 

Our ‘Places’ are a curated collection of the best sustainable tourism options worldwide which have great positive benefits – as specialists, we transparently explain the wheres, whos, whys and hows of trip options, such as you can see here in: Costa Rica, The Galapagos, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nepal, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Ocean Conservation.

These are some of the most incredible places in the world where tourism can make a positive difference, if done sustainably and well: Earth Changers takes the hard work out of you having to find, research and try and understand all the factors which contribute to impacts. We were delighted to be featured as an ethical option and the perfect gift in the EBD Ethical Gift Guide 2017 last year  – we believe that holidays can be the gift of a lifetime without costing the earth. 

Vicky Smith
Ethical Brand Directory Guest Blogger 
Founder of Earth Changers

Vicky’s worked 20 years in tourism and 10 in sustainable tourism: managing destinations, charity challenges, marketing & ecommerce. She’s a published academic, a qualified safari ranger, a ski and snowboard veteran. She’s all about connection: with people, nature, places & spirituality, as shown by her own sustainable tourism start-up,

Find out more:
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Twitter: @Earth_Changers_



London’s Sustainable Stylist

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