What is green tourism? How to become an eco friendly tourist? Why is sustainable tourism so important, and how you can make a difference yourself? What are some examples of green tourism? In this article will be the answers to these questions, as well as explain some of the similar but different terms you may hear about this topic. Read on!
Throughout the year 2018, it is estimated there were about 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals, just over a fifth of the world population. Tourism is huge, and its negative impact on the environment and the climate is huge as well.
The number of tourists around the world has plummeted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and still remains far less than what they were before the pandemic, but there is little doubt that they will rise to similar levels again one day, and eventually even higher. It is incredibly important that travel becomes more sustainable in the future so that its negative impacts are reduced.
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Table Of Contents
The Meaning Of Green Tourism, Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism
So what exactly is meant by green tourism?
Green tourism definition: green tourism is tourism with the aim of being environmentally friendly and reducing the many negative effects associated with travel. These negative effects can include environmental destruction, the unethical treatment of wildlife and animals, damage to communities and their heritage, and the high amount of greenhouse gas emissions from air transport.
Green tourism usually involves things like visiting natural, untouched areas in responsible, non-damaging ways, getting to your destination with as little greenhouse gas emissions as possible, and avoiding tourist attractions that are harmful to nature or to society. Another aim of eco-friendly tourism is to support the local community in the location that you’re traveling to by benefiting their economy, preserving their heritage, and improving their wellbeing.
As you can tell, green tourism is somewhat of a vague and broad term, at least nowadays, which is often taken advantage of by businesses who advertise themselves as being “green” despite taking only minimal measures to reduce the negative impacts of their business. You should keep this in mind when you’re trying to plan more eco friendly trips, so you can avoid making use of businesses that do not have responsible business practices.
Often used in this topic, Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism are two similar but more specific terms that are also worth remembering.
Ecotourism has a similar meaning to green tourism but has a more precise definition. It means traveling in a responsible way to natural, wild areas, with the aim of supporting its conservation and supporting the local people, as well as observing the natural world and learning about it. Travelling to built-up areas would not be considered ecotourism even if it was a completely environmentally friendly trip.
Sustainable tourism is a slightly different concept. It covers every aspect and form of tourism and the destinations that people travel to, not just natural areas. The aim of sustainable tourism is to reduce the negative impacts of tourism as a whole as much as possible while maximizing the positive ones, making the entire industry sustainable over the long term.
Finally, geotourism is another form of green tourism focusing on sustainable tourism in natural and cultural heritage sites. This type of tourism is still in its early stages of development, but it is growing in popularity as more and more people become interested in sustainable and responsible travel.
Geotourism can include activities such as hiking, camping, bird watching, and visiting heritage sites, and staying in eco lodges overnight. Nowadays, eco lodges are available in the USA and all over the world and are a great option for eco friendly travelers. This is a great way to learn about the history and culture of a place while also enjoying its natural beauty.
Why are Green Tourism and eco friendly tourists so IMPORTANT?
The main goal of green tourism is to reduce the negative effects of tourism, both on the environment and on the communities that are involved in tourism. It is crucial for the eco friendly tourist that wants to travel sustainably to be aware of those issues. But what exactly are these environmentally negative aspects of tourism and why are they so important to remedy?
Let’s begin with the environmental impacts. An important place to start is with the impact of air transport, the primary method of long-distance travel. Aircraft produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases, primarily CO2 but also other substances, and air travel is thought to be responsible for around 5% of global warming as a result. Although aircraft have become significantly more efficient over time, total emissions are still rising quickly because of the continued increase of people traveling by air. Aircraft are also responsible for noise pollution and air pollution, which can both have severe health effects on both humans and animals.
Another problem is the environmental damage that can be caused when people are too careless about traveling through natural environments. It is sadly a common occurrence for tourists to litter in natural areas, and when a lot of people travel through an area it will inevitably lead to erosion and a loss of vegetation in the area.
Example of unsustainable tourism
One well-known example of tourism negatively affecting a natural area is the situation on Mount Everest. The mountain attracts hundreds of climbers every year, and with every year that goes by, the problem of waste and litter on the mountain worsens further, with countless items such as oxygen canisters, camping and hiking supplies, and other waste being left behind. Attempting to remove these things from the mountain is dangerous at best and impossible at worst, as the higher you go, the progressively more difficult it becomes to carry anything back down with you. Despite this, there have been some successful cleanup operations that have removed large quantities of litter from the mountain.
Increased tourism in the area around Mount Everest has also led to damage being caused to the habitats of vulnerable animals that live there, such as the snow leopard and Tibetan blue bear.
Possible effects on the wildlife
Tourism can also harm wildlife in ways that may not be obvious. Even a seemingly benign activity can be harmful, for example viewing wild animals from a distance at a safari, as even the mere presence of humans and vehicles can cause wild animals to become more stressed and change their behavior.
Positive effects of green tourism
Although the negative impacts of tourism on the environment are many, it’s also important to remember the positive effects that it can have. For example, tourism to pristine natural locations can encourage conservation efforts, and by traveling to natural locations people can be educated on why it’s so important to protect the environment.
Another very important part of green tourism is to consider the impact that it has on various communities around the world.
For communities that are heavily involved in and affected by it, the effects of tourism are not all good or all bad. Tourism can have a lot of positive effects on a community and cultural sustainability, such as on the economy, which improves the quality of life, creates more jobs, lifts people out of poverty, and gives them more opportunities. It also allows people to learn about and experience other cultures first-hand, facilitating understanding and friendship.
The economies of many countries rely heavily on tourism, and as a result, they have suffered greatly during the pandemic. Increased focus on eco friendly tourism can also provide additional incentive to take the restoration and preservation of the natural environment, and historical and cultural sites more seriously, as well as aid in the preservation of cultural practices and traditions.
Be aware of the negative effects tourism can have: pursuing eco friendly solutions
The negative effects of tourism on communities around the world, both big and small, are also very real and have to be remedied in order for tourism to become truly sustainable.
To start with, when a very large amount of people travel to a particular place, it can create problems with large crowds and congestion, which is known as over-tourism. This overcrowding can cause a lot of inconvenience and stress to local residents, disrupting their daily life. This can create resentment and conflicts between the locals and tourists. It also creates a negative experience for the visitors themselves, since it’s hard to enjoy a location when it’s flooded with other tourists.
Another issue is that tourism can cause damage to a community’s uniqueness and way of life. For instance, when large companies decide to set up shops in areas that have become popular for tourism, they create a lot of competition for the local businesses that make it harder for them to survive, and many of them could be put out of business.
The effects that tourism has on the environment and on society are very complicated and vary from place to place, but hopefully, this section has given you a general understanding of the importance of green tourism and becoming an eco friendly tourist pursuing sustainability for your trips.
Finally, always keep in mind that you can make a difference and be part of the solution! Try to apply as much as possible the 6 Rs of sustainability also during and for your travels will definitively help you to become a green tourist and support the development of more eco friendly ways to travel and explore the world while respecting the environment.
Pursuing eco-friendly tourism solutions is a growing example of sustainability and how this industry can help us to protect the planet for future generations.
Sustainable Tourism Examples And Advice For Travelling Sustainably
So, now that you know what traveling sustainably is and why it’s so important, you’re probably wondering how you yourself can contribute and be eco-friendly when traveling.
Here are some examples of sustainable tourism for being a responsible tourist:
- Ensure that the businesses you’re supporting during your trip are sustainable. As mentioned before, many businesses who brand themselves as being “green” actually have very unsustainable business practices. You should do research on the businesses that you’re planning on interacting with during your trip and see whether they have actually made commitments to being sustainable, and refrain from interacting with businesses that haven’t. This is the first important step to promoting green tourism: always remember to “vote” for truly eco-friendly businesses with your wallet. This will encourage more companies to care more about the environment to attract a growing number of green tourists.
- Support the local communities that you’re visiting. This means that when out and about at your holiday destination, try to shop and eat from local stores and restaurants and use the services provided by local, small businesses rather than any of the larger businesses and chains that may be in the area. If you want a guide during your stay, try to find a local guide. This will benefit the local people and their economy and will help to preserve their uniqueness and way of life, and additionally, it will give you a more unique and authentic experience of the area that you’re in. Taking the time to learn some of the languages spoken in the area you’re in will also be very useful for this.
- Figure out ways to leave as small carbon and environmental footprint as possible. For example, you could try to use air transport as little as you can, since air travel is a massive contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Something important to note is that the per-person contribution to emissions is very high for air travel, meaning that if you fly on a regular basis, it likely accounts for a large amount of your own carbon footprint, especially if you fly first class. When it’s possible to do so, a better choice is to use other forms of public transportation such as buses or trains, or even better, use a bicycle or walk when you can.
- Other things you could do to be an environmentally conscious green tourist are: Avoid any tourist attractions and activities that are harmful to the environment and the local wildlife or that don’t support and benefit the local communities. Another good thing to do is to travel off-season, as this helps to prevent overcrowding of tourists at your destination, which would inconvenience the locals, and it will mean you’ll have more space yourself to fully enjoy your trip and have a more authentic experience. And, importantly, remember that when you’re traveling overseas, you’re visiting somebody else’s home. Always be respectful to the people who live there and to the nature that they live near.
If you follow the green tourism examples listed above you will be much more eco-friendly during your holidays.
In addition, in the future, there may also be other ways to travel, including having eco-friendly vacations on solar yachts. In fact, these catamarans offer the possibility to travel extensively without any emissions, because they are powered by solar energy!
Hopefully, this article has clarified what is meant by green tourism and why it’s so important for us to take action on reducing the negative impacts of the tourism industry.
Traveling in the modern world without leaving a trace on the environment can be very difficult at times, but travelers who take sustainability seriously still have many options for reducing it and for helping to make a difference, especially if you know how to think outside of the box. You should take into account the places that you’re traveling to, what things you can see and do there, and be creative in thinking of ways to have a positive impact while on your eco friendly journey!
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