Sustainable Tourism is making a low impact on both the environment and local culture, and at the same time helping to promote future employment for local people; development must be a positive experience for local people, tourism companies and tourists.
Sustainable Tourism is basically, visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make a positive impact on the environment, society and the economy; it includes primary transportation to the general location, local transportation, accommodations, entertainment, recreation, nourishment and shopping.
Primary Transportation refers to the long haul travel from a tourist’s home country to the tourist destination. Due to financial and time constraints, there are few options to travelling far distances without using an airplane. Unfortunately, in terms of Sustainable Tourism, flying has the greatest negative impact on the environment. If you do have to fly, there are choices that a traveler can make to minimize the impact, even when using airplanes, these are:
- Try to minimize the number of flights you take by combining trips.
- Fly the most direct route, since take-offs and landings use the most fuel.
- Fly during the daytime, as studies have shown that night flights have a greater impact on the environment.
- Fly economy, as more people per plane means fewer emissions per passenger.
- Pack light, as lighter planes use less fuel.
- Purchase Carbon Offsets, to account for the emissions from your flight.
- Select the airline with the least emissions. Recent studies have shown that British Airways, the airline on the bottom of the scale in terms of Sustainable Tourism, uses 51% more fuel per passenger kilometer than SAS (Scandinavian), which is the airline at the top of the list.
As airline travel has the greatest negative impact on the environment, traveling locally on airplanes should be avoided. Taking small airplanes for short trips to tourist destinations does not promote Sustainable Tourism. Every other form of transportation is more favourable; trains, buses, boats, and even cars (with more than 2 passengers) are all more proactive forms of getting around. When traveling in a rental car, for instance, one can make choices in terms of the fuel efficiency of the vehicle and the preventative maintenance program that the car rental company employs to ensure efficient engine emissions.
For very short journeys, one should consider walking or using a bicycle; both have zero impact on the environment.
Choosing the hotel, guesthouse, lodge or camping site that conforms to the basic standards of Sustainable Tourism is important, and doing a little research before making a booking will help to make the right choice. There are many national and international organizations that give membership to accommodation providers; these organizations have minimum standards that ensure you are making an educated choice. Understandably, in remote destinations such as in Uganda’s National Parks, such affiliations are not always possible, and in these situations, it is necessary to do a little homework of your own.
Basic considerations in terms of Sustainable Tourism for accommodations would include:
- Use of Solar Power sources.
- Maximum use of local materials in the construction and furnishings.
- Minimum impact on the local environment in terms of the activities provided.
- Employment of recycling activities and proper waste management procedures.
- Minimum use of fossil fuels for power creation and cooking.
- Maximum use of natural products for cleaning and maintenance.
ENTERTAINMENT & RECREATION
Entertainment and Recreational activities can be selected to promote Sustainable Tourism; these would have positive impact on the environment as well as social and economic aspects of both the employees and the local people where the activities take place.
Some examples of Sustainable Tourism entertainment and recreational activities, could involve the tourist in an environmental initiative, such that would leave a positive footprint. Examples would be:
- A beach hotel organizing a group walk along the beach with the addition of everyone carrying a garbage bag and picking up the trash en route.
- · Hotels can also promote Sustainable Tourism with the implementation of Theme Days, which provide awareness to the tourists of how they can make a difference; examples could be: recycling days, renewable Energies Day, Animal Day, and Earth Day.
- The Hotel Garden is a great place to engage guests in a teamwork activity such as planting seeds and vegetables. Learning to identify different local produce, how to take care of them and even their cooking and practical uses in the local day to day life is hard for guests to resist.
Sustainable Tourism even involves the nourishment aspect of a tourist’s activities, specifically with respect to the source of the food they are eating. The concept of Sustainable Tourism promotes the maximum use of locally grown food products, as well as the methods employed in preparing them.
Eating foods that are imported from great distances has a negative impact on both the environment generally as well as on the local economy. In addition, the use of fossil fuels should be minimized in the preparation of foods, specifically wood and charcoal burning stoves. The use of energy efficient cooking appliances has a very positive impact on the environment, and should be employed as much as possible.
In the area of Shopping, it is very challenging to consider Sustainable Tourism, as getting information as to the source of products and the impact producers make, are not easy to gather. As a general rule, certain considerations should be employed when purchasing products in a tourist destination:
Purchasing products that are grown and/or manufactured locally have a positive impact on the local economy and as a result, the local community. Conversely, purchasing imported products has a negative impact.
Another aspect that impacts Sustainable Tourism is regarding the employee working conditions at the places that tourists make purchases, specifically with regard to rates of pay, hours of work and general working conditions. These are obviously very difficult to ascertain, but such factors should be considerations if the information is available.
Finally, as with everything else a tourist is confronted with, it is preferable to purchase products from people that comply to the basic environmental issues that are commonly known and perceived. These would include the use of alternative energy sources, such as solar; plus such things as recycling and waste management. Again, these items such as recycling and waste management are not necessarily easily discovered, but keeping an eye out for those pro-active retailers and making such choices is all part of being a sustainable tourist.
One thing everyone can do is to stop automatically accepting unnecessary packaging, particularly with regards to plastic bags. Shoppers that would like to make a positive impact on the environment should carry with them a bag or two for their purchases and re-use these bags again and again.