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Sustainable tourism: a contradiction in terminis?

The beautiful image of tourism as a lever for development’ has quite a dark shadow side. Really sustainable travel, there is not (yet), reports ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Travel is on the rise. Not once, but two, three, four times a year, nowadays on a trip. And if it is possible: preferably abroad. Travel to the daily grind to break through, grew to an enormous need. Incidentally, the right to rest and leisure, including regular vacations, is chiseled as a universal human right.

Also distant countries with a totally different culture, gain rapidly in popularity. By so-called foreign cultures in their everyday humanity to know, there may be more respect grow for those cultures. And as a cultural heritage of pennies brings in, it pays to protect it. The same is true for nature, such as coral reefs (snorkeling), African savannas (safari) and rainforest (trekking).

1.1 billion tourists

In 2015, over 1.1 billion tourists abroad. The UN-Organization for Wereldtoerisme (UNWTO) estimates that in 2030 that number will rise to 1.8 billion. The tourism sector today for ten percent of the global GDP and one in eleven jobs. Especially the emerging countries will in the coming years more and more tourists are received. For the Least Developed Countries, tourism is a major source of foreign currency contracts (seven to ten percent). And not to forget: five to six billion people travel in their own country.

No wonder that the UN tourism high eight. Especially in poor countries can be a powerful lever for development. Under the Sustainable development Goals will SDG8 tourism promotion to create jobs and to the local culture and products better to the man. Almost all of the seventeen SDG’s benefit from a thriving tourism industry.

Tourism disrupts

But how can you have 1.1 billion people in a sustainable way around the world to send? In other words: without harm to people and planet? With five percent of the world’s carbon emissions bear tourism is a nice contribution to the climate change. Four percent comes from transportation (mainly plane and car) and one mainly of the hotel industry.

To what extent is tourism – and the ‘mass tourism’ of the big operators – the local people really benefit? Marie-Paule Eskénazi, an expert in sustainable tourism, has its reservations. ‘In southern countries, were people disappointed in the mass. It has, in fact, coastlines ruined by beaches with coastlines to surround. Bridges and roads were constructed at the expense of the local population. Fishermen went to work in the hospitality industry, attracted by the promise of high wages. As a result, fish and other foods more and more to be introduced. As a result, the local population pays more for its power supply. Locals in hotels and restaurants where they according to a stressful work schedule, working, and underpaid. And they don’t eat more of their own traditional food.’

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And lose local traditions, not to spontaneity and meaning because they become a folkloric display? Interferes with a visit to a village or tribe, the normal life is not? Help a trekking to the demise of nature? Tourists provide for one and a half kg of waste per day and consume a lot of water, even in countries that are often already struggling with drought.

Sustainable travel

The beautiful image of tourism as a lever for development’ has quite a dark shadow side. As a counter-reaction were initiatives around sustainable tourism. They offer travel deals, with respect for man and nature. Also the Belgian development Cooperation supports through its initiative, Trade for Development Centre a number of projects. Yet, it is still a limited niche.

UNWTO aims to go further: all forms of tourism, mass tourism, sustainability pursuit. A huzarenwerk! The sector promised already are carbon emissions to reduce, inter alia, by hotels and transport energy more efficiently and to use more renewable energy. There will also be more attention to waste and water consumption and for the protection of biodiversity and cultural heritage. Because UNWTO maintains: tourism is one of the best ways to keep the wealth between rich and poor countries to redistribute.

© iStockphoto

Take matters into your own hands

As an individual citizen, you do not have to wait on the efforts of the UN and the tourist sector. You have very much in their own hands. In another article we give you some 17 tips. So you can opt for reliable long-lasting deals. Or you can carbon offset credits to organisations that inter alia, be responsible for reforestation.

One thing to keep in mind: sustainable travel is not (yet). So think milieuwetenschapper Peter Tom Jones about it. He adds: “We must, above all, less often, less far, which is slower and longer journeys.’ Also staying at home and own country exploring can be an exciting holiday produce. Moreover, nowadays the world is around the corner. And you can developing countries also help without the plane, for example by fair trade products to buy, as well as ngos to support or to invest in micro-credit.

One thing to keep in mind: sustainable travel is not (yet). So think milieuwetenschapper Peter Tom Jones about it. He adds: “We must, above all, less often, less far, which is slower and longer journeys.’ Also staying at home and own country exploring can be an exciting holiday produce. Moreover, nowadays the world is around the corner. And you can developing countries also help without the plane, for example by fair trade products to buy, as well as ngos to support or to invest in micro-credit.

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