As the environmental impact of jet-setting tourism becomes more apparent, popular destinations are turning green.
What is sustainable tourism?
Sustainable tourism aims to ensure that a destination’s popularity is not its downfall. The aim is to create an industry that reinvests profits from tourism back into protecting the environment, championing eco-friendly solutions, and providing for the local communities that the destination is so reliant on.
An influx of visitors from across the globe means investment, jobs and business opportunities – after all, all those people need hotels, restaurants and guides. However, that same rush of tourists can lead to environmental damage, congestion and biodiversity degradation.
Many popular destinations are heeding the warnings about tourism and turning towards greener ways of operating. But travellers need to do their part too, so why not consider an eco-friendlier destination for your next break?
Here are 5 top sustainable tourism destinations:
- Costa Rica
- New Zealand
Alpine foothills, tranquil glacial lakes and rustic cities await in charming Slovenia. Declared the World’s Most Sustainable Country in 2016, this quaint Balkan nation has emerged as one of the most green-friendly destinations in Europe in recent years.
The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, which boasts Baroque architecture, winding alleys and a vibrant culture, was named as the continent’s Greenest Capital by the European Union. Visitors can see the medieval city via a public transportation network that relies heavily on electricity, and cars are banned in many areas.
‘The Land of the Midnight Sun’ has much to offer the eco-friendly tourist. A nation that prides itself on its rugged wilderness, Norway is doing much to preserve its natural landscapes and foster a sustainable tourism sector.
The industry is built around the celebration of nature, with many of the options available to tourists consisting of low-emission activities like hiking, sleigh rides and skiing.
Whether its kayaking in the fjordlands or cycling between the traditional grass-topped cabins of Røros, many of Norway’s most-visited destinations are focused on reducing emissions and the reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
If there’s a country that leads the way in environmental sustainability, it’s the emerald-hued gem of Costa Rica. Among the most biodiverse nations on the planet, Costa Rica has retained almost 25% of its natural rainforests, a rarity in times of destructive deforestation practices across huge chunks of Central and Southern America.
This tiny nation is consistently voted as one of the happiest places to live and much of the country’s tourist industry is focused around sustainable travel experiences such as trekking, rainforest safaris and local community projects.
Meanwhile, National Park fees are reinvested into conserving and protecting the rainforests and endangered species its tourism industry relies on.
Is there anywhere more picturesque than New Zealand? From a cruise along the quiet waters of Milford Sound to a spectacular hike across the icy expanse of Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand is a nature lover’s dream. Drawing adrenaline junkies and wilderness lovers alike, this charming island nation is unsurprisingly a world leader in sustainable tourism.
Nationwide regulations look to ensure every tourism-based business in the country is committed to sustainability within the next decade , focusing on reinvesting profits and resource into preserving its stunning natural environment.
From minimising their environmental footprint to curbing usage of single-use plastic, communities and businesses across the country are transitioning towards an industry that prides itself on tourist innovation.
Herds of wildebeest a million strong make their way across the Serengeti, while Africa’s fabled ‘Big Five’ hide amongst the Savannah brush. A safari in Kenya’s Maasai Mara game reserve is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Tourists flock to this African gem every year and as such, Kenya has had to implement a variety of sustainable schemes to preserve its rich biodiversity.
Many of the nation’s safari lodges and camps re-invest into the local community by funding protection and conservation projects, guarding against poachers and employing locals as knowledgeable trekking guides.
Camping out amongst the wilds of the Savannah, under the stars, is the draw for many tourists. However, such escapism means the lodges must manage their own power and waste facilities. Some lodges have turned to renewable energy sources, utilising the ever-present African sun as a solar-powered alternative to traditional wood or fuel burning.
Though it may seem counterintuitive to a bargain-hunting tourist, the more expensive of Kenya’s safari lodges are usually responsible for the most investment in eco-tourism solutions.