Sustainable Tourism: What Are the Benefits Of It?

By Moira Daly

reviewed by Juliana ascolani

Traveling is great. While the idea may seem demanding at first (you need to plan, save up some money, schedule it into your life, and then—hopefully—enjoy it), the benefits are countless, in both individual and global levels. 

Tourism has evolved during the last century, changing from being an activity only available to wealthy people before the 1950s, to gaining popularity on a massive scale especially since the 1970s. Tourism has positive economic effects on employment and investment opportunities, but it can be harmful for natural and socio-cultural environments if it is not sustainable. The United Nations (UN) identifies tourism as an industry that can contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially Goals 8, 12, and 14 that focus on inclusive and sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption and production, and sustainable use of oceans and marine resources.

There are also a few things we can clarify, to demystify preconceived notions about traveling. 

Is it expensive? Well, it really depends on what sort of traveling you want to do. If you’re flying first class and staying at a five-star hotel, the overall cost (or investment) will be a lot higher than if you fly in a low-cost airline or take a train (which is also more eco-friendly), or if you stay in a hostel or check other affordable prices. 

You don’t need to use all your vacation days at once and then endure the rest of the year without a break. It depends on the sort of holiday you want to take. Some people prefer to have shorter (and more recurring) trips, taking advantage of long weekends, while others prefer to accumulate two or three weeks for a longer break. Each option has its own set of pros and cons, and both are great ways of interrupting a routine and having a mindful, physical, social, and even spiritual break. Nowadays a type of tourism that protects local lifestyles and its flora and fauna, while appreciating historical and cultural values, is at hand. Let’s discover some of the benefits of traveling. 

 

Mindful relief

Whether you’re working in an office, onsite, from home, or looking for a job, it’s important to log off your computer, put your responsibilities on hold, give your mind a break, and simply be. Fully disconnecting is challenging, but with every day that goes by, you leave a bit more stress behind and you become more aware of where you are and what you’re doing. Hopefully, you’re able to fully immerse yourself into your travels, and thoroughly enjoy, in a mindful way, your well-deserved break. 

 

Physical opportunities

There are different kinds of vacations you can take: driving an RV across the country, going skiing or snowboarding, lounging and sunbathing on a beach, hiking through a forest… 

The possibilities are endless, and they present various opportunities for you to try new things every time you’ve got a holiday coming your way. 

For some people, a beach may be the best way to relax; for others, there’s not enough to do. The best way to know what kind of trip you’ll enjoy most is by figuring out what sort of activities help you relax, make you feel content, or challenge you – and what it is you are looking for on your break. 

 

Social change

We usually see the same people every day (or week), and going on holidays allows for some great social opportunities. First, if you’re traveling with a group of friends, with a partner, or with family, you get to interact and share different experiences that you wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to within the more “normal” routine. Second, it’s a great opportunity to meet new people. You can stay in a hostel or couch surf, sign up for activities for people who are also traveling individually or in groups, and you can even ask your acquaintances if they know anyone who you can meet up with at the place you’re headed to next. 

Once you come back from your travels, you can also share your experiences with your friends or acquaintances, and you can also offer tips based on where you went, what you did, and who you met. That’s the sort of information you can also expect from others, which is really useful. 

 

Spiritual and cultural broadening

When you travel, you can learn about a place’s history and culture, its gastronomy, its geography, and a whole lot more, as long as you find the aspects that interest you. Engaging with new cultures is one of the major motivations for traveling. Trying new cuisines, immersing yourself in a whole new world of art, rituals, and traditions can be very enriching. Tourism can be seen as an investment for preserving and enhancing cultural heritage.

By being aware of the habits, choices, and priorities of different cultures, you can also come to think about your own responses and actions, and you may end up growing and incorporating new tools for dealing with various obstacles. Additionally, you can learn (or improve your use of) a new language, you can discover how similar or different cultures are to your own, and you can become informed on how interconnected different peoples and histories truly are, firsthand. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

 

Eco and sustainable tourism

Let’s start by describing what eco and sustainable tourism actually are. Sustainability is described as the ability to provide the continuance of a resource without any reduction of the amount of said resource. On the other hand, ecotourism is environmentally responsible, encouraging visitors to tour relatively undisturbed natural areas and to enjoy nature to its maximum. It promotes the conservation of nature and has low visitor impact. However, sustainable tourism can take place anywhere, not only in natural areas.

Climate change doesn’t mean we shouldn’t travel. There are different ways in which you can apply tools and knowledge to make your travels eco-friendly. So, what can you do to minimize your impact or avoid further consequences on our planet? 

For starters, you have to be mindful of where you’re going and how you’re getting there. There are modes of transportation that generate less pollution (trains, for example), and while the idea of taxing airlines to offset their pollution has been widely discussed, it has not yet come into effect. Be conscious also as to how much you consume, what you purchase, and what activities you carry out while traveling. It’s not just about throwing away garbage, but also steering away from harmful and unethical animal tourism, choosing hotels that recycle water and have eco-friendly policies, and instead of renting a car, opting for public transportation. There are many more measures you can take, but they also depend on where you’re headed. 

As you can see, the benefits of traveling are aplenty – and we’re just scratching the surface here! Even when facing restrictions—such as those caused by COVID-19—you can still take the opportunity to go somewhere you’ve never been before (even if it means going to a place close by and by yourself), to get to know a place you hadn’t thought of visiting before, and to do your best to be self-aware and mindful during your well-deserved time off.

Moira Daly
Editor and creative writer from Argentina, I find that the highlight of my work is learning about different topics, satisfying an innate curiosity for mostly everything and anything. I especially like writing about environmental topics, given that I feel I have the most to learn about them, not only for general purposes, but also for those changes I can incorporate into my life to improve (or decrease) my impact. My academic and professional experience follow the passion and interest I’ve always felt for texts. Whatever task, I always strive for quality, coherence, and consistency, and I hope to share not only what knowledge I acquire, but also the optimism for a better tomorrow by working on those things that can improve our lives.
Researcher

Juliana Ascolani

I am a health researcher who bridges data science and health research with direct experience in healthcare and university institutions, passionately and collaboratively pursuing the integration and synergy of all key areas of health and wellness. I believe in inclusion as the main pillar of our society, especially when it comes to health. Promotion and prevention in health empower people to adopt healthy decisions, thus I have been working during the last years in the development of inclusive and holistic health systems. What do I enjoy the most about my job? Realizing how we are making a difference in people’s lives, and seeing the result in their health journeys. I enjoy the challenge of questioning new paradigms and creating debate around them.

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