Tourism is brought within the debate on sustainable development in general. Sustainable development (and therefore sustainable tourism) takes into account three central points: the necessary interactions between the environment and economic- and social activity. (Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future, 1987) On the 25th of September 2015, countries adopted a set of goals – Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – to protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved until 2030. To be able to reach the goals everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society. (World leaders adopt Sustainable Development Goals, 2015)
The travel industry’s ecotourism sector is principally a collection of small- and medium sized local businesses, non-governmental organizations and communities that create ecotourism programs in outlying and fragile destinations.
Since the 1990s there has been growth in visits to many natural areas, particularly in developing countries. What is more, there has been increasing attention paid to improving the sustainability of all tourism activities. Ecotourism has many benefits: it generates economic profits for host communities, organisations and authorities; it provides alternative employment opportunities for local communities; and it raises awareness towards the conservation of natural and cultural heritage. (TIES Announces Ecotourism Principles Revision, 2015)
Environmental awareness raising
Tourism has the potential to increase public recognition of the environment and to spread awareness of environmental problems when people get into closer contact with the nature. This confrontation may raise awareness of the value of nature and lead to environmentally conscious behaviour and activities to preserve the environment.
Tourism must incorporate the principles of sustainable consumption. Sustainable consumption includes building consumer demand for products that have been made using cleaner production techniques, and for services that are provided in a way that minimizes environmental impacts.
The tourism industry can play a key role in providing environmental information and raising awareness among tourists of the environmental consequences of their actions.
With the development of modern technology and international communication techniques, many promotional campaigns were launched warning from the increasing aggression against natural resources and the consequences of this on our future. Accordingly, the customers’ attention to the hotels which preserve the environment increased.
Preservation is about reusing and recycling spaces in new, vibrant ways and keeping the flora and fauna vital. Reusing spaces saves energy and reduces waste. Many sites can be updated with the latest technologies, made energy efficient, and made useful for many more years.
Numerous animal and plant species have already become extinct or will become extinct soon. The need to restore biological diversity often leads to to creation of national parks.
Lawmakers aim to improve public benefits of sustainability through environmental regulation by requiring firms to adopt sustainable practices. Regulatory measures help compensate negative impacts; for instance, limits on the number of tourist activities and movement of visitors within protected areas can restrict negative impacts on the ecosystem and help maintain the integrity and vitality of the area. These limits should be established after an in-depth analysis of the maximum sustainable visitor capacity – carrying capacity. Finding the right balance between economic benefits and environmental costs is essential to reach sustainable development, ensuring that tourist numbers do not exceed the carrying capacity of the tourism destination. Once the maximum tourist number is exceeded, negative outcomes result at human and environmental levels, such as the destination may become less attractive to tourists, and tourism may decline; or severe environmental degradation.
Tourism is one of the world’s largest and rapidly growing industries. This sector is extremely labour intensive and a significant source of employment.
It is important for local investors to actively participate in tourism. The local workforce can also help by encouraging the use of local companies.
Sustainable tourism has many opportunities for growth, and employment. It could become a way to create advantages for local companies and communities. Sustainable tourism is committed to the boost of local prosperity by maximizing the contribution of tourism to the tourist destination‘s economic prosperity. It should not affect the environment and culture of the tourists ‘destination. However, the inflow of tourists does have an influence on local cultures, whether positive or negative.
Written by Lilla Fazekas, Ecocenter Team