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12 Effective Ways to Promote Sustainable Tourism

Updated on April 25, 2018
aesta1 profile image

Mary works on international development projects and writes about the interesting attractions in countries where work brought her.

Pristine Beach in Concepcion, Iloilo, Philippines
Pristine Beach in Concepcion, Iloilo, Philippines | Source

Why Sustainable Tourism?

Another ploy to attract tourists and give tourism a spin? When we travel to new places, we often just scoot by and look at faces and scenes we'll never see again.

New restaurants, world heritage sites, art galleries, temples, stupas and basilicas, new architecture and many more. Some had been there forever and we just pass through for a quick peek.

We hope these places will be there for the next generation, not only ours. But, we know that this is not always the case. Look at Bamiyan. The Mongols and other conquerors protected this place as they know these had been there for ages but, some in our generation thought the Buddha statues should not be there. We can, of course, think of other examples.

These places we visit are homes for people like us who live and work there. How would you want visitors to behave in your own home?

Think about it! When you are the host, it's great fun to show off what you have. But when the visitors leave, you hope they've cleaned up after themselves and taken only good memories, not some of your heritage!

If we are good tourists, wherever we go, we try to make it a little better because of our visit. We don't have to sacrifice our holidays to do this. In fact, some will even add real pleasure and unique twist to our experience.

Sustainable Cyclo in Hanoi
Sustainable Cyclo in Hanoi | Source

Ways to Promote Sustainable Tourism

If you're thinking of becoming a more responsible tourist, here are some ways you can try:

1. Include sustainable tourism alternatives in your trip

2. Go green in your hotel

3. Know more about sustainable tourism

4. Reduce carbon footprints

5. NO to illegal trade

6. Support sustainable options in island destinations

7. Take care of heritage places

8. Challenge yourself

9. Support community-based tourism

10. Respect the practices of local people

11. Use reusable bags all the time

12. Don't be a critic

Sustainable Tourism Alternatives

There are alternatives we can opt for when we plan our trips. For example, we know that in summer, many cities are overburdened with guests so why go at this time? Vist when the crowd have gone so you give the city a break.

If you have no choice but to go in the summer, you don't have to stay in the city centre. Stay in a place close by and just visit the major attractions each day. You lessen the pressure on the city. Choose not to stay in the already overburdened tourist areas.

You can check the sites of Sustainable Travel International or Stay Another Day or the many sites online on eco-friendly products and services in your target area. Guides will help you. But is that the best place to go in the country? Is it popular only because the one day tourist can see it easily or is it really a worthwhile place to visit? How can you support programs that will make life better not only for the top 1% but for the simple folks in the area?

Botanical Garden in Hanoi
Botanical Garden in Hanoi | Source

Go Green in Your Hotel

Occasions to go green start in your hotel. With towels and sheets. If you are staying longer, ask them to do your sheets and towels not every day but when they are ready for a change. Do the right thing around air conditioners, heaters, and other electronic gadgets. Turn them off when you go out. Better still, stay in hotels that have recycling programs well in place and abide by their guidelines.

Know More about Sustainable Tourism

Learn a bit all the time. Keep your eyes open. See how others are doing. Look at the things they do which contribute to promoting sustainable tourism. A step or two is all it takes.

Reduce Carbon Footprints

One key step in promoting sustainable tourism that is easy to do and will have greater impact is reducing your carbon footprints. Looks like 5% of the world emission is caused by airlines. No wonder some airlines now offer the option for anyone booking a ticket to buy some credits to offset carbon footprints.

There are plenty of green tips to offset your carbon footprints other than just buying credits. You can take direct flights as having several lay overs in your trip increases your carbon footprints. Sometimes, this can't be done so look at other options. Other green options include using health food stores, organic wines and farmers market.

NO to Illegal Trade

Buy from local businesses so you circulate money in the local economy and create jobs for local people. Patronize especially those businesses that are not engaged in illegal trade and exploitation, the exploitation of humans, especially children and the looting of artifacts. Stealing peoples' heritage? Don't do it!

One of the illegal trades in Southeast Asia is on rosewood. Coveted for luxury furniture, cars, pens, yachts, loggers are ravaging Cambodia's forests for rosewood which can fetch them upwards of $7,000 - $15,000 per cubic meter.

Support Sustainable Options in Island Destinations

Coastal cities and islands are now seeing the tourist dollars and so more islands and coastal areas are being developed in many countries all over the world. And in these places, paved highways, lavish resorts, seaside villas, spas, helicopter landing pads and golf courses are built.

This dizzying pace are relocating local residents and driving them away from their livelihood. Of course, these developments also create jobs often filled by skilled recruits not from the islands. Coastal forests that have protected the islands from typhoons and soil erosion are gone. So are the mangroves that are important to the island's eco-system.

Island Destinations
Island Destinations | Source

Take Care of Heritage Places

Tourist sites you visit may be visited by millions of people a year, so care needs to be taken to allow others to enjoy this as well. Take your litter with you and for heaven's sake, do you really want your name emblazoned on the walls or the caves or the sides of the mountain? Do you absolutely HAVE to take that picture of yourself on top of a monument especially when the signs say "NO"?

These monuments and artifacts are so old and fragile that they are sensitive to the touch of hands or bags and shoes. For more information on this, go to Heritage Watch.

Heritage City of Dubrovnik
Heritage City of Dubrovnik | Source

World's Cultural Heritage

Every year, an estimated $6 billion of the world's cultural heritage is stolen and sold.

Challenge Yourself

Often, we go on tours and retreat to our hotels for meals. Walk around, even if only in the streets closest to your hotel. Eat in local restaurants. Talk to the locals even with just your driver.

Learn a few words in the local language and use it. You will surely get a smile from the hotel staff and street vendors. Challenge yourself.

A step beyond your comfort limit each time you take a trip is worthwhile. You will be surprised at the the rich treasures stored in your memory.

Support Community-Based Initiative

In-between the world famous Phuket and Krabi, Koh Yao Noi knew that tourists will not just stay in those developed places but will always venture out to their islands. And the tourists have come but the island is ready.

Koh Yao Noi is home to communities of Muslims, around 5,000 mostly fishermen and farmers, who want guests to their islands to dress properly, leave the corals and shells alone and not litter. The residents who first got engaged to stop poachers who exploit their marine resoources, eventually formed a club to manage the influx of tourist to their islands. They handle all aspects of tourism from tours to sightseeing to homestays.

Around 30 households in the island can accommodate up to 150 guests at a time. Guests who have stayed in the island consider this their secret escape and want this to remain so.

Community Based Tourism

Communities have a stake in the development of tourism in their areas so their active involvement will ensure that programs will be sustained.

Respect the Practices of Local People

Be discreet when people are praying in churches, mosques or temples. Wear appropriate clothing. In some countries, they don't want sleeveless tops and shorts when you go in the temples. Respect the silence and the restrictions placed on these sites. If you see a pile of shoes outside a place, take your own off. Don't be a doofus...think!

Utah Desert
Utah Desert | Source

Use Reusable Bags All the Time

The simplest way to promote sustainable tourism

When you do this, you discourage the use of those plastic bags that fly all over many sites and foul the water and waste systems. Use this bag to carry some cookies to give to beggars and kids. Giving them money will just encourage dependency. If you really want to give, there are agencies you can donate to or where you can volunteer some of your time. This will surely be an experience especially in the more disadvantaged countries.

Carry a tote bag with you all the time

Hyp HY801 16 oz Beach Tote Bag - Natural/Clover - OS
Hyp HY801 16 oz Beach Tote Bag - Natural/Clover - OS

This bag as it is strong and big enough to carry your purse and other things you want to bring. It is great for airline travel and for other trips as well. The handles and the base can support things you carry that are heavy.

This is just a simple thing to do but it eliminates the plastic bags that also pollute the environment.

It was once a big problem in Jordan as the government cracked its head as to the best strategy in eliminating those plastic bags stuck on fences close to the road.

What an ugly site it was and this is true of many countries where you see these plastic bags all over the place.


Don't Be a Critic

It ain't all pretty! Deal with it and keep quiet. Remember, home has its problems and with all the resources we have, we can't seem to solve these.

And here's the big one: good manners are nearly universal. A pro tourist is polite and positive and eco-sensitive. If that doesn't sound like you, then give the world a break and stay home. These are just simple things. What we need is just a little desire to make our world a much better place to be -- not just for ourselves, but for everyone.

A Commitment to Sustainable Tourism

Do you try to do something for sustainable tourism each time you go on a trip?

See results

Learn how to promote sustainable tourism

Whether you are a resort owner or a promoter of tourism in your area or just simply a tourist, there is still a value in learning how to promote sustainable tourism. Every little thing you can do to ensure that future generations will still be able to enjoy the beauty of the places you appreciate will go a long way.

Eating Street Food in Hanoi
Eating Street Food in Hanoi | Source

Challenges to Sustainable Tourism

Ecotourism is on the rise as countries vie for tourist dollars and eco-tourism is attracting many tourists who want to make their travel more supportive of sustainability.

In Cambodia, for example, there used to be only three communities doing this. Recently, the number have increased to more than 20.

The development of ecotourism at the community level certainly contributes to socioeconomic growth with those in the remote areas included, poverty alleviation, expediting growth in facilities in remote areas, protection of indigenous species and traditional ways of life especially of ethnic minorities and biodiversity.

However, it is not easy to organize community based eco-tourism. The list of challenges are listed below.

Challenges to Sustainable Tourism
Challenges to Sustainable Tourism | Source

6 Top Challenges to Promoting Sustainable Tourism

Although initiatives have proliferated in providing community based ecotourism, many have not been sustained. The challenges often include:

  1. Working with local authorities and getting approval often take so much time and some authorities make it difficult for communities to start these initiatives by instituting difficult processes required.
  2. People residing in areas where ecotourism is possible are often illiterate and lack the skills to make this happen. Training can take time.
  3. Communities often do not have the money to sustain the services they provide so when support is gone the program disappears.
  4. Control over natural resources especially land concessions in ecotourism areas. When these concessions start developing the place and cut down trees, the place loses its ecotourism potential.
  5. Lack of knowledge and access to materials needed. Local people often do not have the imagination to make innovations or just even improve the quality of their products and services. As such, they cannot attract tour operators to send tourists in their areas.
  6. Lack of local capacity to manage and develop ecotourism programs both on the community level and the government level as well.

Beachside Clean Up - Be Part of It

Beachside Clean Up
Beachside Clean Up | Source

A Couple's Initiative at Sustainable Involvement

Recently, we were going to meet friends of friends visiting Cambodia so we set a date at FCC so we started looking around when we arrived for possible candidates. We soon realized that we got the date wrong. So, we just sat down and had dinner. But one of the couples there we had asked earlier joined us in our table and we got talking.

They had been visiting Cambodia because on their first visit, they met a young girl in the Russian market, a favourite for tourists here in Phnom Penh. This girl was selling guide books. They told her they were not interested in buying those because often the pages are all over the place. But they got talking to her and she ended introducing them to her father who got diabled during the Khmer Rouge war. They go intrigued and when invited to see their home, they went with them.

Their house was the most dilapidated in the farm about two hours by Tuk Tuk from Phnom Penh. The couple then decided to build them a better home so they were here to visit the finished home which is now the best in the village. The couple have no children of their own and so they have adopted this family and it gives them happiness. Many people are doing similar initiatives all over the world to bring a better quality of life to people who lack for opportunities to advance.

A More Authentic Travel Experience - Quality Beyond Five-Star

I just finished reading an article on community tourism in My Son, Vietnam. A village close to the heritage site in My Son, it is now earning extra income on tourism by providing home stay, cooking for tourists, guiding tourists, renting out bicycles and even making tourists partake in fishing and farming. The International Labor Organization provided them the training and now they are happy to have something to do after they have planted their rice.

The income is good but over and beyond this, the village knows the place very well and by providing these services are giving tourists quality experiences, not five-star but real quality.

© 2010 Mary Norton

Share your thoughts on sustainable tourism

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    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      5 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Peggy. Yes, some travellers are often unmindful of the places they visit especially because they want that selfie to show off. Some residents in popular cities now demonstrate to stop touriists from coming as it affects their own day to day lives.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 months ago from Houston, Texas

      This should be mandatory reading for everyone who goes traveling to new locations around the world. Sometimes simple things can have long lasting effects. We should all hope that future generations can see heritage sites in good condition as one example by our being respectful of them.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      7 months ago

      Yes, we've noticed that.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      7 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      People in some European countries have longer holidays compared to the Americans.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      7 months ago

      In the U.S. long vacations are a relatively rare. Americans from what I understand tend to stick to the tourist spots.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      7 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I really don't know. I have yet to read a study on this.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      7 months ago

      You're welcome. Do you think there has been a surge in tourism since the Common Market came up with minimum annual vacations?

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      7 months ago

      You're welcome.

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      7 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Robert.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      7 months ago

      You add a new dimension to touring.

    • peachpurple profile image


      3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      do they trade with the chickens? I don't understand why the traders had to sit on the pavement to trade. Looks dirty but the Maldive sea is gorgeous

    • aesta1 profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You are right poetryman6969. You have added a very important angle here to sustainable tourism.

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      3 years ago

      Sure the tourist has some responsibility to go for a green trip, but I think that host countries should work harder to keep crime at a minimum and to have an inclusive representative government so as to have political stability.

      I am one of those mean people who likes clean towels every day but I do like it when care is taken that I and others do not trash up and trample fragile habitats and ecosystems. If the tour directors are firm but friendly most will comply with the given guidance I think.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You make the most amazing lenses. This is another fantastic resource with an important message.

    • Staceysk profile image


      7 years ago

      Great information. We've done the 'volunteering' vacations before and actually had more fun that way!

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 

      7 years ago from Connecticut

      Sustainable tourism and eco-tourism provides the local populations with the cash and capital needed to protect their environment and hertiage while introducing the rest of the world to their natural treasures. Very well done!

    • Tommike LM profile image

      Tommike LM 

      7 years ago

      I was planning to visit Krabi province, so like your idea of supporting the local economy by doing some shopping and spending money there. Before i was planning to book a room in one of the krabi hotels, but i have decided that i ll live there in some small guest house or community place lessening my expenses.

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 

      7 years ago from California

      Excellent lens and an important topic. I was even going to suggest a string bag (I have one I've used for 16 years, took it all over Greece) but I see you've got that angle covered!

      Lensrolling to Greece Odyssey. Who knows, maybe a few folks will see it. And thank you!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 

      7 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      It's a great concept and we all should work harder at incorporating it into our travel plans.

    • Demaw profile image


      8 years ago

      When I travel I do try to support the local economy by buying in the markets. I am interested in less touristy places to visit.

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 

      8 years ago

      An interesting lens on sustainable tourism. Lots of good advice when travelling, especially overseas. Common courtesy can go a long way in making a trip more enjoyable for everyone.


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