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What is Sustainable Travel? 4 Key Ideas to Get You Going

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Every one of us has a story to tell about where we live. It could be a story about our relationship to the landscape that we call home. It might also be a story about the community that nurtures our sense of belonging in a vast world.

Here’s my story: I live in the mountains close to two major national parks and surrounded by numerous national forests. I have lived within this ecosystem for decades, and undoubtedly, it has shaped my general outlook and my commitment to living sustainably. 

My home region is a global travel destination and there has been a notable uptick in visitors to this area, especially since the pandemic unfolded in 2020.  Tourism brings dollars to my hometown and to other neighboring towns, certainly.  Yet, as more people continue to flock to this corner of the world, I’ve wanted to know: Is this sustainable?

Turns out, there are a few essential phrases that first must be understood before grappling with this question. Here are four key sustainable travel ideas to get you oriented:

Sustainable Tourism 

“Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.” – UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) 

Key Players? The tourism industry – The term refers to sustainable practices in and by the industry and encompasses all those who provide services to you, the traveler.

Eco-Tourism

“Sustainable tourism with a natural area focus, which benefits the environment and communities visited, and fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation, and awareness.” – Mohonk Agreement (2020)

Key Players? You, the traveler, and the tourism industry – It involves responsible travel to natural areas and educates all parties involved about conserving the environment and caring for local communities. 

Responsible Travel 

“Responsible travel is a term used when referring to the behavior of individual travelers aspiring to make choices on their trip according to sustainable tourism practices.” 

– Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)

Key Players? You, the traveler – It asks you to become more socially, economically and environmentally aware when you travel and to ensure your impact is a positive one.

Regenerative Travel

“When tourism adds value to a destination, by enhancing the quality of life of residents and the health of the ecosystem, it can be considered regenerative.” 

– Future of Tourism Coalition

Key Players? You, the traveler, and the tourism industry – It asks all parties to give more to the planet and their local communities, and it challenges everyone to leave their destinations better by treading lightly and spending with intention. 

Which of these concepts seems most appealing to you?  Let us know in the comments below!  

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