What is Sustainable Tourism: How to be a Better Traveller?

Are you also asking why travel is important? Travelling at least once a year should be part of your annual planning. There are many benefits in life that you can get from travelling the world and knowing them might just make you take the next flight out! 

While our main reasons for travelling may differ, we share the same important benefits from it.

Sharing our academic tourism research on ecotourism development in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines.

El Nido, Palawan is considered a protected area of the Philippines and this study tackled the effects of the development of the region to make way for more ecotourism development and sustainable tourism.

What is sustainable tourism, and why is sustainable tourism important? Sustainable tourism is what we desire from businesses as tourists. Sustainable tourism is what future generations need from us all.

Sustainable tourism, according to the UNWTO, is “tourism that 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.” 

Simply put – sustainable tourism is a responsible way of travelling.

In order to understand sustainable tourism more, let us define the different types that make up this concept. Furthermore, let us see the different approaches that the industry is implementing to promote sustainable tourism development. And finally, let us look at the benefits and challenges that sustainable tourism poses to our society.

Why is Sustainable Tourism important?

Sustainable tourism is important because this world and the lives we live are basically not going to last forever. That is why it is up to our own selves to find ways how to keep our world intact and our lives supplied with our wants and needs.

Why must we do that? It is the responsible thing to do, to think way ahead from today and ensure the beauty of tomorrow. I believe it’s been too long a time that we’re brushing off real problems being exposed by tourism. 

With the grave threats of climate change, increase in poverty and lack of socio-cultural respect, sustainable tourism is important now more than ever. Travel truly has the capacity to make this world a better place. 

Read more: Why Sustainable Travel is Important Now More Than Ever!

Types of Sustainable Tourism

Sustainability in tourism can be classified into three types:

Economic Sustainability 

Economic sustainability in tourism means ensuring that all the green practices being done by all sectors translate to revenue. For tourists, this means value for money. For businesses, this means a dependable flow of income and cost efficiency.

Environmental Sustainability 

Environmental sustainability in tourism means making sure that tourism activities are not designed to change or disrupt the environment where it is held. For tourists, this means proper guidance of nature and wildlife interaction. For businesses, this means switching to clean energy, responsible waste segregation and proper sanitation. 

Social Sustainability 

Social sustainability in tourism means taking care of the local community through the generation of tourism jobs and assurance that tourism experiences do not in any way violate the people living in the tourist destination. For tourists, this means choosing in-depth interaction with locals over generic tours. For businesses, this means empowering the people by means of tourism education, green jobs and respect for their cultures and traditions.

Concept of Sustainable Tourism

When you say sustainability, its concept is founded on three important needs: economic, environmental and social. Investopedia puts it informally as profit, planet and people.

As discussed above, sustainable tourism must be able to build policies and practices with these three needs in mind. 

What is the role of Sustainable Tourism Development?

The role of sustainable tourism development is easy – it is to promote. What exactly is it promoting?

To Promote Quality

Sustainable tourism development promotes quality. A good-performing local community, a well-preserved environment, a fulfilled tourist – all will benefit from the practices that are geared towards sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism development promotes quality lives, quality destinations and quality experiences.

To Promote Continuity

Sustainable tourism development promotes continuity. It aims to keep our pristine environment intact so that future generations have a world to enjoy. It also desires to generate jobs and benefit the local community, ensuring them a means of livelihood they can depend on. 

To Promote Balance

Sustainable tourism development promotes balance. Any form of relationship is a give-and-take, and the same goes with our interaction with all tourism sectors.

The earth is giving us so much for our daily lives alone, that when we interact with it during our travel and leisure time, it is just fitting to give respect and care by exercising mindfulness. That way, we help tourism promote balance in our ecosystem – and beyond.

Approaches to Sustainable Tourism

These are some of the major approaches to sustainable tourism, some of which seem too similar to each other but have important differences that set them apart.

Soft Tourism

Soft Tourism is a type of sustainable tourism which values personal, intentional and organic tourism experiences. It is the exact opposite of mass tourism. Soft tourism aims to eliminate if not lessen the effects and impacts of tourism activities on the environment, local people, and economies.


Ecotourism is another approach to sustainable tourism. It promotes ways of enjoying the environment without changing or disturbing the harmony of the surroundings. Protection includes all living things that make up the tourist destination.

Nature is beautiful, but it is fragile, too, and mass tourism has a way of disrupting the environment in many ways – including the lives of the local community. Ecotourism aims to focus on bringing biodiversity preservation, local socioeconomic benefits, and positive environmental impact.

Responsible Tourism

Responsible tourism is a way of doing tourism sustainably by making sure that everything consumed in the tourist experience is done responsibly. This involves awareness of environmental impacts, generation of income benefits for locals, promotion of meaningful connections and encouragement of cultural sensitivity, and many others. 

Alternative Tourism

Alternative tourism is an approach to sustainable tourism wherein the traveller is given the choice of a more personal, authentic and interactive tourism experience. By choosing so, you are doing away with the negative effects of mass tourism and overtourism thereby helping stimulate income for local communities, enjoying the natural environment the way they are and in the process receiving an experience that is more intentional.

Benefits of Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism has a lot of benefits to the environment, the people and the economy.

  • It impacts the environment positively.

Businesses practising sustainable tourism are committed to engaging in environmentally-friendly practices such as the embracing of clean energy and the protection of ecosystems and landscapes.

Truth be told, it can get very tricky to measure let alone define sustainability. In an effort to set standard criteria when it comes to the environmental impact of tourist destinations and companies, there are certifications such as those from the Responsible Tourism Institute.

“To be a member of the Biosphere Destinations Community is to belong to a destination club whose sustainability is guaranteed by globally agreed criteria in Conferences sponsored by UNESCO and UNWTO.”

Source: Biosphere Tourism
  • It opens livelihood opportunities.

While it is true that implementing sustainable practices in tourism requires a lot of effort, this too means that jobs will be generated. You will need the assistance of a Protected Areas Officer to walk you through the wildlife habitats responsibly, for example. There is also the need to expand local hiring and sourcing as you offer green products and services.

The International Labor Organization  or ILO states that “1 job in tourism creates about 1.5 additional or indirect jobs in other sectors.” Furthermore, ILO and the UN Environment Programme have been busy creating green jobs with climate change in mind. Green jobs are livelihood opportunities that are ecologically sustainable or environmentally beneficial.

  • It raises awareness of challenges and causes.

Tourism has the power to raise awareness of challenges and causes we may have little to no chance of knowing. Because of the rise of sustainable tourism, we now come face to face with the dire need to change the way we travel (and serve travellers.) 

Tourism is highly dependent on nature and people, so it is only natural for the industry to be involved with the serious challenges that they face. I cannot emphasize it more: travel has the capacity to change the world.

Challenges of Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism is promising – but it is not all roses.

  • Educating the whole industry is challenging.

First, you have to educate the leaders in the industry which, hopefully, will cascade the information to the tourism professionals under their wing. This includes our government which plays a vital role in the issuance of permits and formulation of policies.

Next, you have to educate the tourists – which is actually all of us. We need to know that there are sustainable practices we need to adhere to when we visit destinations that are promoting sustainable tourism. This, I believe, is an important role that tourism operators must play. 

  • Continuity is vital.

We know how the old adage goes: the only thing constant in this world is change. It remains the same when it comes to sustainable tourism. 

As the leaders in tourism-related businesses change, priorities may change as well. Same goes with the government; whoever gets elected has much say on the tourism policies to be implemented during their term. 

The main question to answer is this: will they choose to continue the quest towards sustainable development?

  • Beware of greenwashing.

Greenwashing, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is the “behaviour or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.” Pretending to be environmentally friendly for whatever purpose completely misses the true point of sustainable development.

We hope that helped you to understand more about sustainable tourism and why it is crucial in embracing this practice to conserve and protect our planet and enrich the way we travel.

What is Sustainable Tourism: How to be a Better Traveller?


Everything Zany Dual Citizen Travel Blog

Everything Zany

Travel Blog

Everything Zany Travel Blog exploring the UK and beyond. Sharing travel guides, tips, history and culture. Our travel media brand is founded by travel and hotel industry expert – Ryazan Tristram, a Dual Citizen (British – Filipina) based in Birmingham, UK. Everything Zany is a reputable and award-winning travel blog. Our work and contributions have been featured in Huffington Post, CNBC, Discovery Channel, GMA, Readers Digest, and Lonely Planet. Our missions are to build a great travel community and resource of travel tips, visas and travel guides for travellers. Join us as we travel around the UK and beyond with a mission to share the best of the world.

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