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A Beginner's Guide To Sustainable Tourism (And Why You Should Totally Take That Staycation)

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” - Aldous Huxley

According to the United Nations, the number of international travellers have nearly doubled in the last two decades and is forecasted to grow to an astounding 1.8 billion people by the year 2030. This is also why 2017 has been designated as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development to bring worldwide awareness and action to sustainable tourism.

Wikipedia defines sustainable tourism as “the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy”, while the World Trade Organization views it more broadly as “an ethos that underpins all tourism activities”.

Because of my nomadic roots and insatiable wanderlust, this is a topic that is close to my heart. Short of the drastic decision to never board another airplane in my life again, is there a way for me to feel better about the impact I have as a global traveller?

Here are some things to consider before you take off on your next adventure:

1. Choose your destination wisely

Ethical Travel is a non-profit that ranks the World's Ten Best Ethical Destinations every year by their environmental protection standards, social welfare and human rights records, examining how the country has changed over time and if they are actively improving the state of their people, environment and government. Green Destinations comes up with a Top 100 list each year shortlisted from open-call nominations which is then evaluated by a panel of 30 evaluators based off a list of criteria which includes reduction in fossil fuel dependency, protection of nature and animals, promotion of cultural heritage and so on. 

Where you are going matters, and by choosing your destination wisely you are consciously promoting behavior for creating a safer and more sustainable world.

2. Limit your carbon footprint

It may be impossible to eliminate air or car travel altogether on your journey, but you can certainly limit your carbon footprint when you’re at your destination by using public transport or walking when possible- it is more economical and better for your health!

Rather than embarking on an intensive trip that may involve multiple plane rides over a short span of time, book a scenic train ride to reduce fuel consumption or focus on a smaller territory to get a better feel of the land. If you must fly, plan direct routes and pack light to burn less fuel and purchase carbon offsets to neutralize your airplane’s emissions.

3. Sleep in eco-friendly accommodations

Say no to big chain hotels that offer you the same cookie-cutter experience regardless of where you are, robbing you of a unique travel encounter. Book a homestay, B&B or boutique hotel that allows you to immerse in the local culture and traditions (even if it’s a little out of your comfort zone!). 

You should look out for hotel certification schemes aimed at providing greener hospitality, with standards and guidelines that address issues like environmental policies, social and economic development and cultural conservation. 

4. Support local endeavors

Do your research beforehand and spend your money at businesses that direct their profits into social or conservation programs, or hire locals and have initiatives to support the community. 

Seek out indigenous artisans and buy local and hand-made products instead of souvenirs mass-produced in a Chinese factory. Watch yourself when bartering- while you don’t want to get ripped off you also want to be respectful of their work and consider how far the money you think you are saving can go for someone in their position.

5. Tap into the sharing economy

The collaborative consumption movement has played an important role in the growth of sustainable tourism, finding productive uses for underutilized resources. You can now share a home via AirBNB or HomeExchange, pool a ride with Uber or Lyft, connect with a local on Verlocal or Withlocals or engage a vacation photographer through Flytographer. Make sure to leave honest reviews to help your fellow travellers!

But the greenest solution of all? Plan a staycation and get ready to experience home through brand new lens- visit your local museums, catch a performance, take a hike through nature or sign up for a walking tour of the city. It will be easier on your pocket and you won't need a vacation from your vacation when it's over!

Curious about your carbon footprint? Calculate your impact here. Want more tips? You can download Tips For A Responsible Traveler published by the UNWTO.


  1. I've never done a staycation but now I want to!

    1. Summer's a great time to plan one! :)


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