Sustainable tourism – trends to norms

I’m an evangelist for sustainable travel and tourism. Take that into consideration for the following prediction:

During the upcoming 10-year period, sustainable tourism will become the de facto model of travelling.

Bold? Perhaps, because it would almost have to go from zero to hero. The truth of the matter is that while a majority claim to know the term and even express a wish to make their next journey sustainable, very few move beyond words. It’s not their fault, though.

I’ve worked with sustainability issues since 2009, ranging from climate, finance and tourism, and from the onset, I took a controversial approach. I don’t believe in shaming people for their lifestyle. Nor do I think individual consumer action is the panacea for all our ills. Yet, over the last decade, this has been the narrative in media and politics. It’s the easy way out. Blame the little guy.

It still baffles me how bashing individuals and families for their supposed immoral choices is supposed to solve the problem, while a hundred or so global companies stand for the vast majority of emissions each and every year. Dress the wound, rather than engaging in a chicken race which might take us over the edge.

Clifftop above Cassis, France.

Change course or grow wings

Instead, our consumer power should channel increased demand, which, of course, requires awareness. We need to be informed to nudge our politicians towards the necessary system changes. Once they do, making the right choice becomes easy. This is the reason for One Planet Journey – to inform and inspire. Show positive examples, make the topic accessible. But don’t lecture and point fingers. We have to reach a virtuous feedback loop where businesses offering a sustainable alternative receive deserved attention and sales, leading their competitors to do the same. When numbers are sufficient, every traveller can be comfortable knowing that their chosen transport, destination, accommodation, restaurant and sight operate in a responsible manner.

The growth of sustainable tourism – trends in the making

The travel industry is still on Day 1 for the necessary transition. However, I recognise positive trends with the potential for an acceleration.

  • An increasing understanding and concern for the climate and environment continue to push the industry toward more sustainable practices. Awareness leads to demand, which translates into action.
  • Governments and regulatory bodies are implementing policies and regulations to protect natural and cultural heritage, and support local communities. Visitor caps and rental restrictions constitute examples of a desire to safeguard the social fabric of a destination.
  • Hotels, resorts, and tour operators now embrace sustainability to attract conscious travellers. Investments include eco-friendly infrastructure, adopting renewable energy sources, minimising waste, and supporting local communities through employment and fair trade.
  • Advancements in technology play a significant role in reducing friction, for example, a smarter allocation of tourists in terms of sights and times. Limiting the amount of simultaneous visits ensures attractions stay viable over the long term and makes each visit more pleasurable.
  • Consumers are more conscious of their travel choices, seeking meaningful and authentic experiences that contribute positively to the destinations of choice. As sustainable tourism offers opportunities for cultural immersion, authenticity, and environmental conservation, travellers will increasingly prioritise places and brands aligning with their values.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic served as a wake-up call for the tourism industry. It has highlighted the interconnectedness of global issues, such as public health, sustainability, and social equity. It also gave overcrowded destinations a breather, an opportunity to take stock and rebuild in a smarter, more resilient manner, with a focus on preserving natural and cultural assets, supporting local economies, and promoting responsible tourism practices.

In conclusion, I’m cautiously optimistic of a favourable outcome, but make no mistake. The industry needs to do more to satisfy the demands of savvy travellers. One Planet Journey’s mission is to further raise the bar, increase interest and drive change through positive reinforcement. The convergence of growing environmental awareness, government regulations, commercial adaptations, technological advancements, changing consumer preferences, and lessons learned from the pandemic all point towards sustainable tourism trends turning into norms, benefiting both present and future generations.

Wave breaker in San Sebastian, Spain

Catch the wave of positive trends for sustainable tourism

My personal goal is to work with sustainable tourism until we can retire the term. Sustainability shouldn’t be a separate market. It should be the market.

What’s your stance? Focus on individuals or corporations? Let us know in the comment section! Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter and benefit from travel tips, interviews and inspirational examples of sustainable travel.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *