Sustainable tourism practices

It may seem like just another fad, but it is truly necessary: ever more people are hopping aboard the sustainable tourism train in an attempt to reduce the environmental impact of travel, whether this be in nature or in urban settings. More tourists around the world mean a larger environmental footprint with higher global emissions of greenhouse gases. For this reason, people are now becoming more aware of sustainable tourism practices.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) states that sustainable tourism 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’. In fact, it emphasises that practices should be undertaken under the premise of reduce-reuse-recycle, as well as protecting cultural and natural heritage, and providing tangible social and economic benefits for local communities.

Sustainable tourism practices involve significantly reducing the use of plastic. In this sense, luggage should include a reusable cloth bag to use for shopping or holding specific items, as well as a refillable aluminium bottle for water (even if the water comes from larger bottles). Moreover, travellers should generally avoid using any product made from plastic and choose those made with natural and sustainable materials.

Plastic is causing real harm to our oceans and the campaign against using this material includes many companies in the hospitality sector such as Resuinsa, who are making major cutbacks to its use. Many hotels are also making a similar commitment, including the use of plastic-free amenities in guest rooms.

In terms of accommodation, tourists themselves can encourage good sustainable tourism practices by asking for linens to be changed less and towels not to be washed daily (earth-friendly options), by using the air conditioning as little as possible or by taking shorter showers.

On their trip, tourists should be respectful of the local flora and wildlife. It may seem obvious but merely taking a piece of coral, picking up a starfish to upload a photo to Instagram or purchasing products made from animals has a huge environmental impact. Moreover, instead of taking the car, visitors can also use buses or trains. If there no other option is available, they can also hire electric vehicles.

One product always found in travellers’ bags is sun cream. Its daily use by thousands of people increases pollutions in our oceans and directly affects sea life. There are, however, ecological alternatives that provide the same level of UV protection. In fact, many tourist spots, such as the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, are already enforcing the use of environmentally friendly sun creams and other related products, e.g. mosquito repellents.