I am working on a Sustainable Tourism Policy for Latin Adventures. This blog post documents some of my research and ideas on Sustainable Tourism that I intend to follow as a travel agent. Once finished, I will post Latin Adventures’ Sustainable Tourism Policy on this blog, in it will be clearly documented our specific commitment and goals.
First of all, it is important to understand what Sustainable Tourism is, both on a philosophical and practical level. I then ask the question what we can do as individuals as well as in my case as a travel agent to reduce the negative impact our holidays or travel has on the environment and natural habitat of flora and fauna and also the local communities we visit.
The image below shows the diversity of Amphibian species in the World, with it being at its highest in the tropics and Brazil with the most described species at 932 species. Reason enough to travel responsibly and ensure that these species to not reach leves of extinction.
I will leave the discussion of the difference between Eco, Responsible, Green, Geo & Sustainable Tourism for a different blog post.
What is Sustainable Tourism?
Sustainable Tourism or (Responsible Tourism as it is know in the trade industry) is about travelling responsibly, by reducing our carbon footprint on the trips we make around the globe. It is about making conscious choices when we book a trip, for example by choosing a responsible airline or Eco-Friendly Hotel or by making sure that the travel agency or operator you book with has done the necessary work for you; to ensure that the holiday you book has as little impact as possible on the destinations visited.
“If you travel for relaxation, fulfilment, discovery, adventure and to learn – rather than simply to tick off ‘places and things’ – then responsible travel is for you.”
– Responsible Travel.com
What is Carbon usage or Carbon Footprint and how can it be calculated?
Carbon usage refers to the amount of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) that is emitted during a specific activity. There are indirect emissions eg. fuel burning to produce goods or direct eg. cooking on a stove at home or using a car.
Carbon Footprints measure the direct emissions of gases that cause climate change into the atmosphere.
You can use a Carbon Calculator to calculate the Global Warming emissions of a person, family or business. I found http://www.co2list.info/topics/category/footprint%20calculator to be pretty comprehensive.
What can I do to reduce my impact and travel responsibly?
Apart from your choice of Travel Agent or Operator, there are many other things that we can do as individuals to reduce our impact:
Booking your holiday
- Choosing a responsible Airline that off-sets their carbon emissions. (There is an ongoing debate about this. In the long-term I believe it better to reduce rather than off-set carbon emissions).
- Flying less (reducing carbon emissions).
- Take fewer and longer holidays
- Travel by train and public transport where possible
- Use public transport or hire a bike in destinations where possible
- Booking direct flight itineraries (shortest route options without transfers)
- Booking Eco-Friendly or Local family-run hotels
- Pack lighter
Before you travel
- Read up on local cultures and learn a few words of the local language – travelling with respect earns you respect
- Remove all excess packaging – waste disposal is difficult in remote places and developing countries
- Ask your tour operator for specific tips for responsible travel in your destination
- Ask your tour operator/hotel if there are useful gifts that you could pack for your hosts, local people or schools
- Ask your tour operator whether there are local conservation or social projects that you could visit on your trip, and if/how you could help support them
While your away
- Make your trip count by supporting local communities and their development.
- Shop locally
- Do not buy products made from endangered species, hard woods or ancient artefacts
- Respect local cultures, traditions and holy places – if in doubt ask advice or don’t visit
- Use water sparingly – its very precious in many countries and tourists tend to use far more than local people
- Remember that local people have different ways of thinking and concepts of time, this just makes them different not wrong – cultivate the habit of asking questions (rather than the Western habit of knowing the answers).
- Dining at family-run / local restaurants.
When you get home
- Reporting any activities that go against sustainability, ie. Endangered species meat on offer at a restaurant, or leather goods.
- Give feedback to your travel agent or operator
What can I do to help?
Here is a list of some charities, organisations and websites where you can make a donation or get involved with different projects:
http://www.thetravelfoundation.org.uk/ – works with the travel industry towards a sustainable future.
http://www.tourismconcern.org.uk/ – campaigns for better tourism
http://thetravellottery.co.uk/ – Lottery tickets 50% of total funds local projects. £5,000 cash prizes.
http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/ – works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods
http://climatecare.org/ – Delivers positive environmental & social impacts around the World
http://www.icrtourism.org/ – The International Centre for Responsible Tourism (Leeds Met Uni)
http://travelpledge.org/ – contributes financially (with donations from travellers) to the charitable social and environmental projects in the destinations they visit.
https://www.ecotourism.org/ – The International Eco Tourism Society
http://www.planeta.com/ – Think Smart, Travel Slow
http://www.crees-manu.org/ – Supporting a Sustainable Amazon
http://www.sustainabletrip.org/ A list of hotels, tour operators & other tourism business in Latin America & the Caribbean that are verified by the Rainforest Alliance.