Traditional forms of tourism are now giving way to a more sustainable path, which benefits local communities as opposed to large corporations. The benefits of sustainable tourism are far and wide, but one of the main focuses of sustainable tourism is to be of benefit to local communities.
Why is sustainable tourism important? The UN’s sustainability goals for the year 2030 state that decreasing poverty as well as providing decent work and economic growth are two of the stated goals.
Sustainable tourism is defined as ‘Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.’ (U.N. World Tourism Organization, UNWTO)
One such benefit of sustainable tourism is when the money from travel/tourism is directed into a local community, as opposed to a large corporation, one can expect to see a change to a more personable, highly localised tourism experience. One example of this is when utilising the services of a local ranger for an ecotour. These local rangers are highly familiarised with the geography, flora and fauna, wildlife, history and culture of the area. They are then able to share this information with the traveller, thereby generating a valuable educational experience in addition to a fun tour in nature.
Small communities are invested in offering the best possible experience to travellers in their location, because it benefits the community directly, thus allowing the community to be more self-sufficient. The meaning of this being that one is able to have a bit more control of one’s own livelihood and contributions, as opposed to waiting for external employment opportunities to arrive in the area. This self-sufficiency is a focused benefit of sustainable tourism.
Many small communities have been focusing their efforts on community improvements with the income generated by local tourism efforts. Some examples of these types of initiatives are community savings groups which can serve to offer microloans to women in the villages, improvements in infrastructure via building of schools and community centres or the addition of water and electric facilities or the improvement of existing facilities thereof.
Having tourism which is based at a community level, creates a plethora of positives, not only for the community but for the traveller as well. Travellers interested in a local experience have the best opportunities to discover a locations’ hidden gems when engaging on a community level, as opposed to the traditional forms of tourism. Locals always know the best places for dining, most beautiful local scenery and other treasures that one is hard-pressed to find with large tour companies. This is a traveller benefit of sustainable tourism.
Dining locally, and enjoying locally sourced ingredients are also a special treat for the traveller, and one which also benefits the local communities. Eating local foods provide not only palatable delight, but an insight into the culture and agriculture of the local area – based solely on the ingredients made available for traditional food items. Who knew that one could learn so much simply by eating? Or that the lesson would be so tasty!
Sustainable tourism also follows the path of leaving a destination better than you found it. In other words; enjoying the pristine nature by merely existing in it and not leaving your tourism footprint behind. This is especially pertinent when visiting nature reserves and wildlife areas. Flora can be that sensitive that something as simple as human touch can damage the plant. This is just one more reason why it is imperative to utilise the services of a local ranger to guide your ecotour.
When one combines all of these together and adds the benefit of the financial contributions directly into the local community, which benefits the local community and encourages and motivates, sustainable tourism is a preferable option as opposed to traditional tourism methods.
Live sustainably, travel sustainably, tour sustainably….
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