Sustainable tourism is the way forward. Some go as far as to say that it should be the only way forward. As the industry as a whole emerges from what could well be called the worst crisis in living memory (with a financial impact even greater and more devastating than that of 9/11), a new philosophy of travelling seems to be gaining traction. Sustainable tourism is set to be the polar opposite of mass tourism: rather than consuming globalised experiences, travellers are invited to explore their destinations at a more relaxed pace, to be more aware of the impact their presence has on the environment, and to respect and appreciate local communities, traditions, and customs. This way of travelling is about taking some time to get to know a place, to absorb its characteristics, to become familiar with different cultures. It’s about seeing less, but understanding it better. This trend, which is becoming increasingly popular, could finally push the entire industry towards sustainability – and some say it was about time this happened.
Sustainable tourism is changing the way we travel
Taking a break from stressful holidays
We all miss travelling and look forward to it, but many seem to have not forgotten how the most popular travel formats tend to be anything but relaxing. Organised trips, pre-planned excursions that transport herds of puzzled tourists from one unmissable landmark to another, with set times for meals and a timetable that turns fun into a chore. All these elements are still very popular in mass tourism, but the number of travellers who find them disagreeable and search for different experiences is growing. For this target group, the purpose of travel is not to see and experience as much as possible, but rather to go through their travel experiences as consciously as possible. They prefer longer stays, with fewer stops, allowing them to savour each destination intensely and get to know it on a deeper level. Travellers looking for sustainable tourism do not only want to get to know the tourist attractions, but also the daily life and culture of the place. And they are committed to reducing the carbon footprint of their holidays and business travels.
Slowing down the journey, not just the stay. This is how you make tourism sustainable
Sustainable tourism will need to deal with the modern obsession with speed. Reaching a destination as fast as possible is no longer a priority for many travellers, who will happily find ways of enjoying longer journeys for the sake of reducing CO2 emissions. The journey is no longer a necessary waste of time separating the tourist from their destination, but an integral part of the overall travel experience. Hence the increasingly common decision to travel by train or boat rather than flying. These choices, as environmental activist Greta Thunberg proved when she sailed across the Atlantic, are much more sustainable and can make for transformative experiences.
How do you build a sustainable tourism package?
This type of tourism requires creativity on the part of the travel agent. There are no fixed steps, as expectations expand and perspectives shift. If, say, your chosen destination is Rome, a visit to the Colosseum is no longer the obvious choice for an excursion. If you pass through Paris, you can give the Eiffel Tower a pass. The goal of a sustainable journey is not to clog your friend’s Instagram feed with pictures that look just like everyone else’s, but rather to collect experiences and grow as a person. The sustainable traveller doesn’t want to grab an image or a cheap souvenir to take home, but rather to think, reflect, understand, experience something unique, which would not be replicable anywhere else. What constitutes experience? It may be anything, from wine-tasting weekends to writing retreats in monasteries and abbeys, from yoga weekends to three-day excursions and sailing trips.