What is sustainable tourism?

Tourism allows visitors to experience different landscapes, cultures and ways of living. It also brings revenue and employment to countries. However, tourism can be damaging. Littering, construction and increased visitor numbers can harm the environment and local wildlife populations. The recent increase in tourism and its negative effects have highlighted the need for sustainable tourism.

What is sustainable tourism?

Sustainable tourism aims to decrease the negative impacts of tourism on a destination. This is done by protecting natural resources and creating employment for local communities. For example, tourists could stay in places that employ locals and use sustainable energy sources. In areas where poaching is a problem, running wildlife tours can generate income for residents. This means more money can be made when animals are kept alive, so encourages preservation of endangered species. This has been successful in decreasing gorilla poaching in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

What are the benefits?

Deforestation, climate change and direct human effects are having a huge impact on the environment. Between 2009 and 2015 over half of the elephant populations in Tanzania were lost. In contrast, elephant numbers are thought to have doubled in ecotourism areas in Zimbabwe. Sustainable tourism helps to preserve our world so that it’s still as interesting in the future! Sustainability is also important from an economic point of view. The tourism industry is thought to be responsible for just under a 10th of Africa’s GDP (gross domestic product, a measure of a country’s economic wealth). Sustainable tourism encourages the use of local run businesses so that more profit goes to the local community. An increase in sustainable tourism will therefore lead to increased income for locals.

Eco-tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the tourism industry. Using local companies often makes for a more involved, meaningful experience for tourists. Growing concern about the environment has also made eco-friendliness a higher priority on people’s holiday wish lists. 70% of holidaymakers want the companies they travel with to be committed to environmental conservation. In the future, laws are likely to be put in place to ensure sustainable tourism, so companies that are already trying to be sustainable will be one step ahead.

Where is sustainable tourism being used?

In 2002, Botswana adopted a national ecotourism strategy. All tourism companies were encouraged to use solar power, recycle water, and to use silent, emission free cars for safari tours. This is thought to have been hugely successful. In 2012 there were 105 registered ecotourism companies in the popular destination of the Okavango delta, employing around 300,000 people. This has also led to a more positive experience of tourism for locals. In a 1998 survey of local villages in the delta, 71.6% said they felt they did not benefit from tourism. When asked again in 2007, 94.4% said they supported tourism in the delta, and even more said they would be happy if a family member worked in the industry.

KATIE O'BYRNE

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