Each year, the United Nations names a theme that will be pursued for the entirety of that year. Accordingly, 2017 has been named The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Sustainable Tourism for Development has three key tenets: economic, social and environmental.
Economically sustainable tourism aims to inject funding from tourism into local economies that receive tourists, especially in developing countries. This aims to eradicate poverty and economically empower locals, especially women and children. This aspect of sustainable tourism also aims to create jobs in tourism for local workers, and to create greater trade between nations. Socially sustainable tourism aims to increase international travel and encounters between those of difference cultures and races, as a means of spreading cultural awareness, understanding and appreciation of the world’s rich and diverse cultures. Lastly, environmentally sustainable tourism aims to create of culture of global tourism that benefits the environment, not damages it.
So how can you travel sustainable in 2017?
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge and plan your trip around the three pillars of sustainable tourism. Firstly, to travel in an economically sustainable manner, ensure that you travel with local companies, which employs local workers. This will not only benefit the locals by providing them with employment and payment, but will also benefit you, as you will learn about the location, its people, and their culture, from a local.
Secondly, aim to travel to a different country that has a culture you know very little about, or you would like to learn more about. Travelling in a socially sustainable way will ensure that you learn about the local cultures, their languages, their customs and their ways of life. This goes both ways. Feel free to teach locals about your culture, your background and your language. This cross-cultural interaction is at the core of socially sustainable tourism.
Lastly, to travel in an environmentally sustainable way in 2017, there are several rules you should follow. Firstly, the success or failure of economically responsible and sustainable tourism businesses depends almost solely on the consumer. As a consumer, it is imperative to support local businesses that act in an economically responsible manner. So try and ensure that you travel with companies that do as little as possible to impact on the environment. Furthermore, if you plan to encounter any animals, ensure that the animals are treated in an ethical and responsible manner. Regardless of whether you plan to visit elephants, orangutans or dolphins, it is important to check that the animals are being well cared for, and not exploited for the sake of profit.
Finding economically, socially and environmentally sustainable travel options does require a level of research prior to travel, so make sure you weigh up your options and evaluate which is best for you. More information on how to plan and organise you sustainable travel in 2017 can be found under ‘Green Passport’, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiated. If you would like to find out about the UNEP Green Passport, please click here.