Do you want to take a more eco-conscious approach to travel? Here we explore the benefits of sustainable travel and how you can minimise your impact when visiting new places

What is sustainable travel? 

Sustainable travel, also known as responsible tourism, is about conserving the environmental, economic and sociocultural conditions of the places we visit whilst maximising the positive benefits of tourism. It is quickly becoming regarded as the only way we should be travelling, following the pick up of travel post-Covid, the risk of ‘over-tourism’ and of course, the concerns for our planet’s future as global warming remains front of mind. 

What are the impacts of tourism? 

Tourism is an important industry, thought to account for just over 9% of the world's gross domestic product (GDP), according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. There are numerous benefits to tourism, including: 

  • Developing amenities and infrastructure (such as transport, health centres, roads, and water and sewage systems) which benefit both visitors and locals. 
  • Employment (almost 300 million people are employed in the travel and tourism industry worldwide). 
  • Economic support for low-income countries. 
  • Opportunities to meet new people and discover new places.
  • Conservation efforts to maintain local areas. 

Despite this, there are also a number of negatives that come with mass travel: 

  • Potential conflict between locals and visitors. 
  • Risk of over-tourism (where a place becomes overwhelmed with too many visitors, which may displace locals). 
  • Often, popular holiday hotspots come with increased prices of goods and services which heightens the cost of living for locals. 
  • Risk of countries becoming dependent on tourism which can create instability if people stop visiting. 
  • Over time, tourism can put great stress on local areas, including pollution, littering,  damage to historic sites, the erosion of land, loss of natural habitats and depleting resources. 
  • Contributes to climate change (tourism is responsible for 8% of the world’s carbon emissions). 

Benefits of sustainable travel 

Sustainable travel is a greener alternative for the eco-conscious who are still looking to have an authentic travel experience. What’s more, there are numerous benefits to responsible tourism including:

  • Engaging with local communities. Staying in local accommodations, eating at local restaurants and participating in community events can help you learn more about the local culture and way of life.
  • Learning new skills. Use travel as an opportunity to learn new or develop existing skills, such as navigating local transport services or hiking. Why not try cooking your own meals with local produce, too? 
  • Spending more time in nature. Often, travelling sustainably naturally means that we’re less inclined to spend time on our phones as we immerse ourselves in the local surroundings. This can also help reduce stress and anxiety and boost our mood.
  • A sense of purpose. Knowing that you’re doing your bit for the planet and the local community can help you feel more fulfilled and empowered to do more. 

How can I make my next trip more sustainable?

  • Minimise single-use plastics when travelling and carry a reusable water bottle. 
  • Opt for public transport such as buses and trains where possible. If you need to fly, try to find flights that offset their carbon emissions and go direct where you can.
  • Support local businesses. 
  • Respect the local area, and avoid littering or damaging land. 
  • Choose sustainable accommodation. 
  • Research the environmental, economic and social concerns of the area you’re visiting prior to travelling and take steps to minimise your impact.

Find out more about how to set planet-friendly, sustainable intentions on Happiful.