10 Reasons Independent Sustainable Travel Should Be The New Normal.

panda conservation on a gap year

Responsible and sustainable tourism is becoming increasingly accepted as the gold standard in travel, and independent travellers are starting to question traditional tourism and demand more responsible practices instead. Here are ten reasons why that momentum should not only continue, but become the new normal.

Taking a gap year and travelling the world is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t always sustainable or responsible. Let’s face it, with huge problems in overtourism, our carbon footprint, the destruction of habitats and harm to local wildlife population due to travellers need to ‘go off the beaten track’ or tick of that bucket list item amongst many other problems, travel has a lot to answer for.

The good news is that things are changing for the better, and 2016 saw a huge paradigm shift toward responsible tourism like never before. People are becoming more aware of how to travel responsibly, unethical and irresponsible wildlife attractions were shut down or boycotted on a larger scale than ever before and many travel industry providers began to turn their back on irresponsible partners. Even Tripadvisor made a statement saying they were going to do that, which we are still waiting for them to do obviously, but at least it is a step in the right direction.

In case you still need convincing of the reasons why it is now more important than ever to travel in a responsible and sustainable way, here are a few of the most important reasons.

Sustainable Tourism Benefits The Local Community.

More and more people are starting to travel independently now and are seeing the real benefits of travelling on their own terms (I won’t say I told them so)! But this is having a more profound affect on local communities too. As travellers start to shun the big multinational tourism industry providers, they look to more local businesses to shop with, stay with and travel with. That means your travel money goes directly to the locals and not big business. Which is awesome.

Sustainable Tourism Opens People’s Eyes.

By travelling sustainably and independently, travellers can gain a much deeper insight into the places they are visiting by the locals themselves. They won’t get the usual scripted and sensitized tourist spiel from behind a walled complex, they will get the bigger picture from the locals.

Sustainable Tourism Protects The Land.

Piatra Neamț Romania Travel

The tourism industry traditionally took advantage of the land and destroyed large tracts of it to create tourist friendly experiences and hotels. The Earth’s unique ecosystems are fragile, and they are not renewable. Once they are gone, they are gone for good. Sustainable tourism recognises that there is profit in protecting and conserving these habitats and allowing travellers a peek into them from a less harmful distance, rather than exploiting, harming and destroying them for profit.

Sustainable Tourism Works With Communities, It Doesn’t Displace Them.

It is part of the backpacker curse that wherever we trailblaze and find new, untouched parts of the planet, they eventually become popular and the package tourists flood there en masse. It is still very common to see large high rise mega hotels and resorts swamp and ruin a newly discovered bit of paradise and force the local communities that made the place special in the first place away. Sustainable tourism does the opposite of that. It works with the local communities and allows them to prosper from tourism, not get forced out by it.

Sustainable Tourism Protects Local Culture.

The traditional tourism industry is a horrendous monstrosity that finds a previously untouched piece of paradise and wholesale dumps a homogenized Western standard right on top of it, with the same bland resorts, swimming pools, McDonalds and fast food crap widely available. What happened to exploring the diverse and wonderful differences in the world? I don’t travel across three or four continents to get another McDonalds milkshake for crying out loud! Every community should not be the same. Sustainable travel celebrates these differences, it shuns the globalised tourist traps and respects the local culture and community. That way it ensures that local culture retains its identity and what makes it special.

Sustainable Tourism Protects Local Wildlife.

Semmengoh Orang utan rehab centre borneo

Instead of the traditional industry model that would trample all over natural habitats and support the harm and abuse of animals as long as the fee paying tourists were happy, responsible and sustainable tourism sees that there is a better way. It is much better to protect and care for the local wildlife populations and allow travellers a glimpse from a distance, it allows travellers to contribute to the conservation and protection of the species that so many of them love and want to see, and it educates travellers on better ways to do just that, rather than harming them just for a photo op.

Sustainable Tourism Reduces Our Footprint.

By shunning the large hotels, the resorts and the air conditioned gas guzzling transport that fuels those land grabbing monstrosities, sustainable tourism practices a slower, better, more environmentally conscious way. Of course we are never going to be completely traceless, the sheer amount of plane travel alone will attest to that, but in general independent travellers travel for far longer periods, travel more slowly and mix this up with overland travel too. Not to mention the fact that there is less of a need for all those resorts in the first place as backpackers tend to stay with locals far more often than not. It isn’t perfect, it probably never will be, but it’s better than the traditional travel industry.

Sustainable Travel Shows Travellers Everything Isn’t Just About Them.

What you should consider before volunteering on your gap year

Many travellers and tourists in the past have set off into the world completely oblivious to the impact they were having. Their only focus was on ticking off that bucket list activity or fulfilling their own desires by ‘volunteering for a day’ with little helpless third world children in voluntourist orphanages. Sustainable tourism breaks down that selfish and blind saviour complex and forces travellers to think of the wider picture and how they can use their skills to help local communities, not how the experience can benefit them. The traditional industry voluntourism providers are slowly falling out of favour as people wake up and realise that they are doing far more harm than good.

Sustainable Tourism Is Profitable.

Travelling responsibly and sustainably doesn’t mean that the traditional travel industry has to suffer as a result, far from it. It does mean that many aspects of the traditional travel industry has to change, but if it does then sustainable travel can be far more profitable for individual providers than the old irresponsible industry ever was. Responsible travel can help the industry providers save money with initiatives like washing towels less and minimising travel or operating costs, it can draw in more travellers and more profit than ever before by feeding the increasing appetitite for responsible and sustainable travel (and at the same time avoid losing business as travellers turn away from irresponsible businesses). Sustainable tourism is big business, and the traditional travel industry can benefit from that.

Sustainable Tourism Protects The Planets Future.

We all want to travel for a variety of reasons, but a big part of a lot of them is seeing some of the worlds most stunning natural attractions and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The pristine jungles, deserts, mountains and islands that we all love to see should be sen with as minimal an impact as possible to ensure that they are still there for future generations to see. That is what sustainable tourism preaches. That is what sustainable tourism is. That is what sustainable tourism does.

Responsible and sustainable tourism has really begun to pick up the pace in recent years with more and more travellers shunning the traditional insudtry and taking a more independent, responsible path. I believe now is the time sustainable travel really starts to become the new normal.

What do you think? Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or please join in the discussion on my Facebook or Twitter pages on this important topic, and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons and spread the word.

If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

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Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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Posted in Responsible Travel
16 comments on “10 Reasons Independent Sustainable Travel Should Be The New Normal.
  1. Steven says:

    So true! Could not agree more with you.

  2. kksharma47 says:

    All travel should be sustainable, otherwise we all lose the privelige of seeing the world.

  3. Suzy says:

    Absolutely, and I think sustainable tourism is definitely becoming more and more mainstream, or at least companies have become more aware of it as a marketing ploy.

  4. Andrew Davies says:

    Totally agree. It honestly just makes so much sense that I cant believe it isn’t the norm already.

  5. Amy says:

    Could not agree more with you. Sustainable and responsible travel is just too important to be a niche thing.

  6. Aubrey says:

    Such a thought provoking post, thank you.

  7. besureontour says:

    I definitely agree that sustainable tourism is starting to become the new norm as tourists are finally starting to open their eyes to the detrimental impact that tourism can have at times – especially when it comes to what goes on behind-the-scenes with animals that allows for us to enjoy them for our own entertainment.
    I still think we have a long way to go before things like elephant rides and photos with animals are completely shunned, but it definitely helps that big companies like TripAdvisor are starting to take action.

  8. Kian says:

    Totally agree with you.

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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