“Imagine the difference one tourist could make by adopting small changes, from using their towels for more than one day, to hiring a local guide or buying local products. Now imagine if these simple actions were multiplied by one billion; that is the power of one billion tourists.” – Taleb Rifai (Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organisation).
Have you ever thought that your actions, as a tourist, could negatively impact the places you visit? For example, important tourist phenomena can degrade the natural environment, help reduce natural biodiversity, cause social alienation, standardise or irritate the local community.
To prevent these events, we need to change our way of traveling by adopting a sustainable tourism approach, based on three fundamental pillars, namely social, environmental and economic sustainability, and giving rise to the possibility of responsible tourism, respectful to the environment, the economy and the local communities.
Embracing a sustainable travel style is much simpler than you might think: it’s not a matter of spending more money or depriving yourself of comfort, just changing your attitude, changing some habits and becoming more aware of the impact we are creating on the environment. A couple of changes that depend not only on the safeguarding of the social and economic elements of host communities, but also both the cultural and economic well-being of these communities. Whatever the motivation for the trip, today tourism must have a long-term vision, respecting the traveller, the natural heritage, the environment and the local community itself, in order to allow visitors to have exciting and formative vacations, without consequently causing damage to the destination.
Sustainable tourism has therefore to do with our well-being, together with that of planet Earth and future generations.
Being a “good tourist” also implies being a responsible traveller. Responsible tourism is, in fact, a tourism that is always implemented according to the principles of sustainability, that recognises the centrality of the local host community and its rights to be a protagonist in developing sustainable and responsible tourism in its native land. Responsible tourism encourages the positive interaction between the tourism industry, local communities and travellers. (definition adopted by the AITR assembly, on 09/10/2005 in Cervia).
Travelling responsibly is a primary goal that all tourists, whether they are moving for pleasure or for work, can help to achieve by paying attention to some simple codes of conduct before, during and after their journey. For example, researching as much information as possible about the destination, by choosing tour operators, airlines and hotels that are committed to the host communities and the environment, adapting to the customs and habits of the local populations, respecting the rules of the destination, supporting cultural events and local crafts, abandoning prejudices and not flaunting wealth and luxury in contrast to the local standard of living, using the services managed by the native population, trying not to leave behind any damaging evidence of the stay, respecting the commitments made with locals and, above all, enjoying local cuisine. Cooking is, in fact, an important part of a local culture and choosing local, zero kilometer and organic food, allows you to taste products that are better, tastier and more environmentally friendly because they are products that have not required gasoline to arrive on the table. Even for souvenirs, choose locally made craft products, they will be much more appreciated and a great help to the local economy.
These are small actions, but it is essential to be aware of them in order to respect and preserve the functional balances of a healthy, sustainable and profitable survival of the protagonists of the tourist experience.
If developed coherently with compatible practices, tourism has a high growth potential but can only bring wealth and prosperity if sustainable. Green tourism can help solve some of the major problems affecting the world today, from poverty to climate change, and has a positive impact on future generations, through job creation and education.
Sustainable tourism is not only a powerful tool for combating unemployment and economic decline, but also represents a real opportunity for growth within the local economies, from agriculture to handicrafts, the improvement of the territories and landscapes, the recovery of historic places that otherwise risk abandonment, from the ancient hamlets to the small mountain villages or areas subjected to strong depopulation, giving value to ancient and precious traditions as well as authentic products and production methods that encompass millennia of history and culture.
That's why it is important that your journey is sustainable: A few simple choices to make every holiday as natural as possible, to travel on tiptoes, to discover new places without destroying them.
More information can be found on the following websites: Associazione Italiana di Turismo Responsabile, UNWTO, Codice Mondiale di Etica nel Turismo, Commissione Europea and International Ecotourism Society