By: Talia Salem
As an organization that is focused on certifying sustainable standards in the travel industry, the topic of sustainable tourism is very near and dear to our hearts. Global Sustainable Tourism Council hopes that one day sustainable tourism will no longer be an ideal, but rather be the normal mode of operating.
Each person is drawn to sustainable tourism for different reasons: to protect the earth and preserve it for future generations, to save money, and perhaps to help grow local economies. No matter what the reason, more and more people are traveling each day and the impact of tourism is growing.
Sustainable tourism is not often looked at through a visitor’s lens. We often talk about people, planet and profit, but what about the visitors and their experience? In all of the discussions about sustainability in tourism, visitors are not discussed very often. When they are discussed, it is primarily in regards to their destructive impact.
Can sustainable practices enhance the visitor experience? If a sustainable destination or product is not offering a better product, or travel experience, what is the point? People are ultimately going to stop coming and in the end, that product is not going to be financially viable. So, why would I as a traveler want to visit a sustainable tourism destination or select a sustainable tourism product?
My answer: sustainable practices allow for a richer visitor experience. Visitors are seeking experiences with a deep connection to the destination. As an avid traveler, I constantly think about this question and what makes me, Talia Salem, gravitate toward more sustainable product offerings. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and was transformed into an earth-conscious being at an early age after watching Fern Gully, but there is more to this preference than an eco-responsibility. Sustainable destinations and products have offered me, and continue to offer me, a better experience with a deeper connection to that place.
As a traveler, I want an experience that feels distinctly different than home. While I understand this feeling doesn’t apply to every traveler, I desire to feel invigorated by a travel experience and immerse myself in what makes that destination worthy of my visit. Sustainability helps provide that destination difference, that immersive experience in country.