What is Sustainable Tourism?
The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the UN Environment Program (UNEP), and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) describes as:
Sustainable Tourism is an aspiration for the impacts of all forms of tourism to be sustainable for generations to come. It aims to minimize the negative impacts, and maximize job creation, cultural heritage preservation and interpretation, wildlife preservation, landscape restoration, and more for a destination, by addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them.
Responsible Travel refers to the behavior of individual travelers aspiring to make choices according to sustainable tourism practices. The behaviors usually align with minimizing the negative impacts and maximizing positive ones when one visits a tourism destination. It's about choosing to respect and benefit the local people, their cultures, economies and the environment.
Ecotourism is a niche segment of tourism in natural areas. It focuses primarily on experiencing and learning about nature, and which is ethically managed to be low-impact, non-consumptive, and locally-oriented. Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education of all involved - visitors, staff and the visited.
Promote Sustainable Tourism by reducing your carbon footprints:
- Avoid the plane, or take non-stop flights. Take-offs and landings cause most of a plane's carbon emissions by burning more fuel, in addition to emitting a lot of heat.
- Go green. In your hotel room, ask them not to change your sheets and towels every day. Turn off the air conditioning, heater and electronic gadgets when you leave your room. Also, stay in hotels that have recycling programs in place and abide by them. When traveling, travel with reusables like reusable water bottles, travel mugs, a cloth shopping bag for the groceries, etc.
- Spread awareness on sustainable tourism. It is our duty to educate others by spreading awareness on the environment.
- Support local restaurants and food joints when traveling, sampling locally-sourced ingredients, trying their traditional food.
- Support legislation that promotes sustainable tourism.
- Buy souvenirs from local stores. When you visit a new place support their ventures by buying some of the souvenirs, so you can promote the authentic artisans and their locally handcrafted items. Check for local items that have some sort of value, such as ceramics, art and textiles. In doing so, you will also be injecting money into the local economy, promoting the people's work and creating more jobs for the locals. Purchase jewelry made by a local artisan, buy spices grown by a local farmer, or carpet woven in a local village.
- Support the fight against illegal trade. Help businesses that are not engaged in illegal trade; avoid antiquities or ancient artifacts, forged brands, etc.
- Walk where possible. Walking is the most basic and convenient way of touring a new place, in addition to the fact that it reduces your carbon footprints. Get help from tour guides who advise on areas that are safe to walk through. Avoid the van/bus rental and rely on public transport instead as it's cheaper, emits less carbon, and this way you can blend in with local people. Choose public transit over private vehicle use.
- Promote sustainable tourism with your inner circle.
- Travel more locally, both in your country and abroad.
- If planning a sun - sea - sand holiday, choose Blue Flagged locations.
- Pick Slow City locations for your travel to be away from the crowds and hustle and bustle.
- Share your sustainable travel experiences with your family, friends and those on social media spreading awareness of sustainable tourism.
- Volunteer to organizations fighting the same fight.
- Say no to plastics. Opt for locally purified water in recyclable glass bottles and carry tote bags in your luggage that you can use while perusing street shops and markets.
- Donate to sustainable tourism businesses and organizations.
- Take care of heritage places. There are lots of heritage sites all over the world and in Turkey, which attract millions of visitors every year. Don't litter and take your trash with you, do not graffiti, and don't have your name emblazoned on the walls. Do not take a photo of yourself sitting on these monuments. Leave the place better than you found it.
- Respect the practices of local people. When people are praying in churches, mosques, or other holy sites, be discreet. Additionally, wear decent clothing when visiting these places and abide by any established dress code. Consult the tour guide if it is okay.
- Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone. walk around in the streets closest to your hotel. Eat local. Learn a few words in the local language and use it.
- Make sustainable tourism the new "normal". Be a responsible and sustainable tourist every time, not only once. Support eco-tourism and environmentally-conscious tour operators and tour guides.
Remember that there is no Planet B!!
Tourism accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions: 4% is attributed to transportation, close to 1% to the accommodation sector, and a small amount to other tourism activities. Therefore:
- Choose eco-friendly and eco-conscious hotels for accommodation in order to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Consider using a sustainable travel agent and a local tour guide organizing trips and activities for you that take environmental and social impact into consideration.
- Seek out local experiences of local guides. Book excursions led by licensed local guides.
- Getting off the beaten path allows travelers to have a more unique and authentic experience while avoiding the crowds.
- Once you're in your destination, consider taking the bus, traveling by rail, or cycling around town instead of renting a car.
- Travel off-peak; If you really want to see the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul or fairy chimneys of Cappadocia with less people, then consider traveling outside of summer or holidays period.
A Responsible Tour Guide is known for "personal and planet positive" holidays and cultural tours. He or she should be a high-end quality travel guide, have off-the-beaten path experiences, cooperate with environmentally sustainable partners and tailor-make each trip with communities off the tourist trail, wherever possible. He or she should offer unique gastronomy tours - from wineyards to tastings or Turkish coffee preparations for instance, use transportation types such as train, boat, bus, and foot, that are all handpicked and your itinerary is created around the things you like best. He or she should have slow-travel experiences with personalised support, consider the needs of travellers, but also the needs of host communities, local businesses and the natural world. This could mean adopting more sustainable methods of transportation, staying in more environmentally friendly accommodation, eating locally and ethically sourced foods, and avoiding harmful activities.