The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals agreed upon by the United Nations as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Sustainable tourism is key to achieving many of these goals, including Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and Goal 13 (Climate Action).
Sustainable tourism is a form of tourism that aims to minimise negative impacts on the environment and local cultures while promoting economic development that benefits local communities. It involves responsible practices from all stakeholders involved in the tourism value chain – from hotel owners to tour operators and tourists themselves.
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism accounts for one in ten jobs globally. With sustainable tourism practices, communities can benefit from tourism income and create more livelihood opportunities for their inhabitants. Small, local tourism businesses can provide employment and income for people in areas that may not have access to other economic opportunities. By choosing to stay in locally operated accommodations and supporting local tour operators, tourists can help ensure that their travel spendings stay within the community.
Another way that sustainable tourism can contribute to the SDGs is by promoting responsible consumption and production. This can manifest in a variety of ways, from choosing accommodations that use environmentally friendly practices and generate minimal waste, to supporting local food producers and purchasing souvenirs that are made sustainably and ethically.
In addition, sustainable tourism can play a significant role in the fight against climate change. Travel is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming. However, by choosing to travel sustainably – for example, by using public transportation or cycling instead of taking a car or plane – tourists can significantly reduce their carbon footprint. Additionally, supporting accommodations and tour operators that have committed to reducing their emissions can have a big impact on the industry as a whole.
How Do We Accomplish This?
However, the road to achieving sustainable tourism is not easy. In many developing countries, the lack of infrastructure and capacity building to support sustainable tourism practices is a significant barrier. In addition, some tourism stakeholders prioritise profits over sustainability, often leading to unsustainable tourism practices.
To overcome these challenges, collaboration between all stakeholders involved in the tourism industry is crucial. Governments can establish regulatory frameworks and incentives to promote sustainable tourism, while industry stakeholders can adopt sustainable tourism standards and support local communities through social and environmental initiatives.
Sustainable tourism has the potential to achieve financial, environmental, and social sustainability while contributing significantly to the SDGs. Through sustainable tourism practices, stakeholders can help to preserve natural and cultural heritage sites, promote economic development and poverty reduction, and foster peace and cultural understanding. It is incumbent on everyone involved to prioritize sustainable tourism practices for a better future for all.