What is Sustainable Travel

“…travellers who want luxury, exclusivity and sustainability. You shouldn’t have to choose.”

Redefining Tourism for a Better Future

Sustainable travel, sometimes referred to as sustainable tourism, responsible travel, ethical travel, or eco-tourism, has seen increasing momentum and attention as a way to combat the negative impacts of tourism on the environment (pollution, waste, carbon emissions), communities, and cultures. The pandemic highlighted a new way to experience destinations usually suffering from over-tourism. With growing concerns about climate change, biodiversity loss, and social inequality, travellers and the travel industry now recognise the urgency to rethink and redefine tourism for a better future. But what is sustainable travel really about?

What is Sustainable Travel – A definition

At the core, sustainable travel minimises the negative impacts of tourism while maximising the positive. In short, a mindful and responsible approach to travel covers the triple bottom line; the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainability. It seeks to; protect and preserve natural and cultural resources, support the financial well-being of local communities, promote ecological conservation, foster cross-cultural understanding, and spread the benefits of tourism equitably among key stakeholders.

Sustainable Travel as a force for positive change

International tourist arrivals have increased from 25 million globally in 1950 to well over a billion today. The industry creates approximately 11% of the world’s employment and 8-10 % of global CO2 emissions. Thus, travel matters, and to ensure it is net positive, travellers need to understand how sustainable travel will increase the value of their travels.

Do you know how much of your travel budget ends up in the local community? A report from the UN indicates that out of every $100 spent in a developing country, only $5 stays in the country. Sustainable travel examples like community-based tourism, where local communities play a central role in tourism development, can help to correct the imbalance while giving travellers a deeper bond with their destination, gaining lasting memories through exclusive and personalised experiences.

Another example is eco-tourism, which promotes nature-based tourism and contributes to conservation efforts. Eco-tourism often involves wildlife viewing in deluxe environments where the connection between traveller and animal is up close and personal in a responsible way.

Sustainable hotels and accommodations are gaining popularity as good examples of sustainable travel practices. These properties implement environmentally-friendly practices such as energy and water conservation, waste reduction and recycling, and local sourcing of food and materials while supporting local communities.

Sustainable travel offers the opportunity to experience authentic and meaningful travel experiences. Instead of participating in superficial mass tourism, disconnected from local cultures and environments, sustainable travel allows travellers to immerse themselves in local communities, learn about their customs, traditions, and way of life, and develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the destination.

Sun setting in the sea on Bjäre peninsula, Sweden

Sunset on Bjäre Peninsula, Sweden

Demand for Sustainable Travel

The market for sustainable travel has risen steadily, not counting the lockdown period, as travellers seek out responsible and authentic travel experiences. According to a Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) report, sustainable travel and tourism represent about 20% of the global tourism market, with an annual growth rate of around 10%. The numbers include niche segments like adventure tourism, cultural heritage, and community-based tourism.

The increasing demand for sustainable travel comes from a rise in awareness of environmental and social issues, resulting in changing consumer preferences. Travellers seek to minimise their carbon footprint, support local communities, and contribute to conservation efforts, aligning with sustainable travel principles. A full 78 % express a wish for sustainable accommodation at least once in the coming year, according to a recent Booking.com study.

The journey ahead

While the concept of sustainable travel has gained momentum, embraced by many travellers and the travel industry, it still faces challenges and limitations. One of the main issues is the lack of consistent and standardised criteria for defining and measuring this type of travel. There are various certifications and labels available, but none are universally recognised, and further, there is no single, comprehensive framework for evaluating the sustainability of travel practices. It leads to confusion for travellers, making it difficult to assess the authenticity and effectiveness of existing initiatives. A global system would recognise businesses for their investments and dispel notions of greenwashing. Enter One Planet Journey. Our mission is to showcase inspiring examples from across the globe and become the definitive resource for travellers who want luxury, exclusivity and sustainability. You shouldn’t have to choose.

Tell us about your sustainable travel experience. The good, the bad and the ugly, we want to hear it all in the comment section! Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter and benefit from travel tips, interviews and inspirational examples of sustainable travel.

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