7 useful ways to adopt sustainable travel practices

In an age where travel selfies flood our feeds, have you ever stopped to consider the true impact of your adventures? Beyond the passport stamps and picturesque moments, your every step can either nurture local communities and nature or leave a destructive trail. Embrace sustainable travel to transform your journey into a force for good, making every adventure a meaningful difference!

What exactly is “Sustainable Travel”?

Sustainable travel, also known as sustainable tourism, refers to a form of travel that aims to minimize the negative impacts on the environment, economy, and society while maximizing the positive contributions to these areas.

It also emphasizes the importance of respecting local cultures and traditions, ensuring that tourism activities do not disrupt or harm local communities. Economically, sustainable travel supports local businesses and economies by encouraging tourists to spend their money in ways that benefit local populations.

Don’t fall behind the trend!

Google reported a remarkable 191% increase in searches for “Sustainable Travel” between 2020 and 2023.

Sustainable travel

Source | Getty Images

Why is “Sustainable Travel” important?

Tourism poses a significant environmental challenge, driving overdevelopment and natural degradation while contributing roughly 8% of global emissions. In places like Bali, a research shows that a considerable amount of fresh water is siphoned off for tourism, deepening water shortages amid rapid urbanization and climate change. Moreover, due to the seasonal nature of the tourism industry, many destinations experience a population surge, with ten times more residents during peak season compared to the off-season.

This influx puts significant strain on local resources and infrastructure, often leading to increased costs and competition for necessities like food, water, and energy, thereby impacting the quality of life for local residents. Therefore, embracing sustainable travel practices is crucial to mitigate these impacts and protect both the environment and local communities.

How to travel sustainably?

1. Avoid overtourism

By making mindful choices, your travel can play a crucial role in minimizing the impact on heavily visited destinations. Opting for off-peak times not only allows for a more peaceful experience but also supports local economies during quieter periods, fostering a more sustainable tourism model. Similarly, exploring lesser-known destinations offers a chance to uncover authentic cultural experiences and forge meaningful connections with local communities.

Avoid overtourism

Source | Reddits @connorhowe

2. Engage in slow travel and immersion

Researchers state that an impressive 83% of travelers now favor slow travel, savoring the experience of exploring places deeply, immersing themselves in local cultures, and welcoming new adventures. This mindful approach to travel not only forges a profound connection with the environments and communities we visit but also champions a more meaningful and sustainable way to see the world. Beyond the enriching personal experiences, slow travel also drastically reduces CO2 emissions compared to the hurried pace of high-impact tourism, making it the ideal choice for those looking to journey with a lighter footprint and a fuller heart.

Slow travel & immersion

Source | Panhou Retreat

3. Respect local culture

By immersing themselves in the traditions, customs, and daily lives of local communities, travelers are seeking authentic experiences that go beyond mere tourism. This trend supports the preservation of cultural heritage and promotes economic benefits for local populations. Sustainable travel is not only about protecting the environment but also about respecting and understanding the social fabric of the destinations visited.

Source | VnExpress

4. Reduce single-use plastic

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2022), the world produced over 460 million metric tons of plastic in 2019, double the amount produced in 2000. This alarming increase highlights the importance of reducing single-use plastic, especially in the context of sustainable travel. Travelers can significantly impact plastic pollution by opting for reusable water bottles, utensils, and bags, and by supporting accommodations and businesses that prioritize eco-friendly practices. Embracing these habits not only helps reduce waste but also promotes a culture of sustainability within the travel industry, encouraging destinations to adopt greener practices and protect their natural environments.

Vietnam has also made significant efforts to minimize single-use plastic, implementing various initiatives to combat plastic pollution. It has introduced policies to reduce plastic waste, encouraged the use of eco-friendly alternatives, and raised public awareness about the environmental impact of plastic. These efforts are part of a broader strategy to promote sustainable practices and protect Vietnam’s rich natural heritage and vibrant ecosystems.

Source | Behance

5. Support local businesses

By choosing locally-owned accommodations, dining at neighborhood restaurants, and purchasing handmade crafts from local artisans, travelers ensure that their spending supports the community. This practice helps preserve cultural heritage, stimulate economic growth, and improve the livelihoods of local residents.

Moreover, prioritizing local businesses fosters a deeper connection between travelers and the destination, enriching the travel experience. As awareness of sustainable tourism grows, directing spending towards local economies becomes crucial in promoting responsible and ethical travel, benefiting both the travelers and the communities they visit.

Source | VietnamNews

6. Choose sustainable destinations and services

A study by Oxford University in 2015 shows that four million tourists who visit wildlife attractions outside of traditional zoos are likely contributing to widespread animal cruelty and the decline of various species’ conservation status. These attractions range from snake charming, bear dancing, and macaque shows to larger venues like dolphin and tiger interactions. The study found that tourists are often unaware of their impact, leaving positive reviews and financially supporting practices harmful to animal welfare.

Nonetheless, travelers can make a positive impact by backing eco-friendly initiatives, engaging in well-researched responsible wildlife interactions, and advocating for conservation, thereby playing a vital role in preserving the natural beauty and biodiversity of their destinations.

Source | Con Dao National Park

7. Stay in eco-friendly accommodations

Staying in eco-friendly accommodations is not only a way to reduce your environmental footprint but also a chance to support businesses committed to sustainability. Choosing certified eco-accommodations such as those certified by Travelife, B-Corp, EarthCheck, Green Globe, and others ensures that your stay aligns with rigorous environmental and social standards.

Look for certifications that prioritize energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, and the use of renewable resources. These accommodations often participate in local community initiatives, source food locally, and minimize single-use plastics. By staying in certified eco-accommodations, travelers can enjoy a guilt-free experience knowing their lodging choices contribute positively to environmental stewardship and support sustainable tourism practices globally.

Source | Panhou Retreat

Conclusion

Let’s take small steps together to change the way we travel, making our lifestyle and the world more sustainable.

As a dedicated member of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), we at Travel Sense Asia are proud to offer our expertise in customizing your entire trip to ensure that your experience not only fulfills your dreams but also contributes positively to the environment and supports local communities. We believe that every traveler can make a difference, and we are here to help you travel sustainably with confidence

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