The growing demand for sustainable tourism (Aug 2011)

Aug 2011

By Ekobai Contributor, Responsible Tourism Industry

Sustainable tourism is in the ascent. The internet has opened up a world of choice to savvy eco-minded travellers, and certifying bodies such as the Rainforest Alliance and WWF are leading the way in promoting responsible travel. While secondary industries such as travel insurance continue to launch schemes to help ‘offset’ the inevitable carbon footprint of air travel.

Tourism is a huge global industry, employing more than 235 million people worldwide and generating some 9.2 percent of the global GDP. While ‘sustainable’ tourism is still a relatively small part of this, it is growing at an impressive pace.

The concepts of sustainable or responsible tourism and eco-tourism are often used interchangeably. However, while eco-tourism involves visiting, and in some cases volunteering (‘voluntourism’), in conservation areas, sustainable and responsible tourism are broadly about reducing the impact of your holiday on the environment generally (through offsetting schemes or using alternative modes of travel to flying) and being more respectful of the culture of the country you are visiting.

The Rainforest Alliance is now offering training to tourism businesses to provide them with the tools they need to run efficiently and sustainably – and to earn the right to use the Rainforest Alliance Verified™ mark on promotional materials.

Rainforest Alliance has also launched which lists hotels, tour operators, and other businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean that have either been verified by independent, third-party sustainable tourism certification programmes or are recommended by other reputable organisations.

Elsewhere the WWF’s Global Marine Programme is engaging with the tourism industry to ensure that conservation and social issues are considered in marine tourism. 

Lots of other organisations are beginning to explore this new growth area and we can expect a suite of new standards to be developed, as well increased uptake in existing ones, such as Sustainable Travel International’s Eco-Certification. 

Projections for the growth of the global tourism over the next ten years are impressive. According to UN figures, annual international trips around the world are expected to double to 1.6 billion by 2020, a quarter of them by long-haul travellers.

At that rate, coupled with the expected continued rise in demand for responsible options for both travel and hospitality, sustainable tourism promises to be a phenomenon growth area in the short as well as the longer term.

Check out Ekobai’s guide to the leading certification programmes for the hospitality industry

Find more information on the Rainforest Alliance sustainable tourism programme and the WWF's sustainable marine tourism work

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