Sustainable Tourism: Top 25 Tips to Travel Sustainably

Aerial view of pine forest

4.83min read

Published 19 April 2023


Sustainable tourism is top of mind for more and more travellers, and for good reasons! But what is sustainable tourism? And why is it important? Read on to find out the answers as well as our top tips on how to travel more sustainably.

Sustainable travel is about minimising the impact of travellers on the environment
Sustainable travel is about minimising the impact of travellers on the environment. Image credit: Getty Images.


What Is Sustainable Tourism?

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, sustainable tourism is about establishing a balance between the environment, the economic and the cultural aspects of tourism. It is about minimising the impact of travellers on the environment and local cultures.

The principles of sustainable tourism revolve around conserving natural resources, protecting biodiversity and natural habitats of the region you travel to, respecting the local cultures of the host region, and all the while still benefiting the local communities economically.

Responsible tourism, eco-tourism, nature-based and cultural tourism are all types of sustainable tourism.


Respecting the local culture is key when travelling sustainably
Respecting the local culture is key when travelling sustainably. Image credit: Getty Images.


Why Is Sustainable Tourism Important?

Sustainable tourism is important because it ensures future generations can keep travelling and keep enjoying the best travel experiences our globe has to offer for years to come.

Another benefit of sustainable tourism is about contributing economically to local areas and reducing poverty in certain communities - by paying for a local attraction, hiring a local guide, or simply by eating locally grown food or buying local crafts.

Plus, with the rise of eco-tourism attractions around the world and here in Australia, your entry fees also often contribute towards conservation projects or the protection of local ecosystems, which is an amazing way to make sure your travel dollars go towards making a positive impact on our environment.


Eco-tourism makes a big impact on the environment
Eco-tourism makes a big impact on the environment. Image credit: Getty Images.


How Does Sustainable Tourism Help The Environment?

There are many ways that sustainable tourism contributes to a better environment for everyone:

• By having a lower ecological impact - from eating local food to picking your accommodation based on their sustainable practises and everything in between!

• By supporting nature conservation and helping protect natural habitats and local ecosystems by making the right choices as a traveller (pick the attractions that make a positive environmental impact).

• By being mindful of your waste while travelling - especially if you already do this at home, why not take this habit with you on your travels?

• By allowing the wildlife to remain wild and to thrive and by staying away from non-ethical tourist attractions involving wildlife.

• By supporting local communities who promote sustainable tourism practices. Tourism is the main source of income for many developing countries; so when you support tourism practises that have strong environmental values, both the local economy and the environment benefit.


Once in your destination choose a green mode of transportation and explore the local area by bike
Once in your destination choose a green mode of transportation and explore the local area by bike. Image credit: Getty Images.


25 Tips to Travel More Sustainably

So now that we understand a bit more about what travelling sustainably means, here are some of our top tips:

1.   Take your zero-waste items with you when travelling - reusable coffee cup, water bottle, bamboo travel cutlery set, tote bag, stainless steel reusable straw (for those of us who cannot have a cocktail without a straw!), food storage container (for takeaways or picnics), cloth napkin, etc.


Take your reusables with you on your travels
Take your reusables with you on your travels. Image credit: Getty Images.

2.   Offset your travel emissions with the Trees4Travel C02 Calculator. This great calculator allows travellers to calculate and offset their carbon emissions by planting trees in developing countries. The tree planting projects not only help restore ecosystems and biodiversity but also support local communities through employment. 

3.   Dispose of your waste responsibly - this is obvious, but we better say it anyway! Recycle if you can, or composting is even better but under no circumstances should you ever litter, never ever!

4.   Don’t use the small shampoo, shower gel, conditioner bottles you get in hotels - we know it’s hard to say no to a free mini shampoo but do you really need it? Instead pack your soap, shampoo and conditioner bars and help reduce plastic!

5.   Say no to single use slippers in hotels too…they very often just get thrown out after you use them once (although some hotels recycle them but better be safe and not use them at all!).

6.   Favour eco/nature-based activities - for example white water rafting, ziplining, hiking, snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, diving, tree-top walkways, cycling, surfing, visiting national parks, going waterfall chasing...the list goes on!

Go waterfall chasing
Go waterfall chasing! Image credit: Getty Images.

7.   While hiking, stay on the marked trails to avoid harming the local flora.

8.   Choose activities that give back to the local communities if possible rather than the big touristy attractions.

9.   Book eco-friendly hotels or accommodation options - this is something that many hotels around the globe are getting better and better at so when it comes to booking your accommodation do you research (or ask us!) and pick your hotel based on their sustainable practises. Or why not try eco-camping or even glamping which often has a far smaller carbon footprint.


Eco-camping is a fantastic sustainable accommodation choice
Eco-camping is a fantastic sustainable accommodation choice. Image credit: Getty Images.

10.   Travel to destinations that have an emphasis on ethical, eco-conscious tourism. 

11.   Do not take “souvenirs” from natural sites.

12.   When wildlife is concerned, always be careful about what activities you pick. Avoid attractions that involve animals performing or where you get to closely engage with animals. Talk to us about this as we can recommend the attractions that are committed to the welfare of animals. Also check out our 5 Tips For Responsible Travel In Africa which includes some info about ethical animal experiences and safaris.


Observe the wildlife from a respectful distance
Observe the wildlife from a respectful distance. Image credit: Getty Images.

13.   Conserve water - many countries around the world suffer from a shortage of clean water so make sure you do your bit while travelling - always reuse your hotel towels, take short showers and no bath (sorry!) and turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Every drop counts!

14.   Pick attractions where a part of your entry fee goes towards conservation projects.

15.   Go local - eat at locally owned restaurants (forget about Macca’s!), shop at the local markets, use a local guide, get local craft souvenirs, drink local wine (that’s an easy one!), etc.


Eat local
Eat local. Image credit: Getty Images.

16.   Respect the local cultures as this is an important part of sustainable / responsible travel - this includes respecting local customs, dressing appropriately and behaving in a respectful manner to the local people.

17.   Always ask for permission before taking a photo of local people.

18.   Learn some basics of the local language - even it is just a very small amount, this shows respect to the people of the country you are visiting.

19.   Use biodegradable and reef safe sunscreen.


Help protect the oceans, the reef and marine animals by using reef safe, biodegradable sunscreen
Help protect the oceans, the reef and marine animals by using reef safe, biodegradable sunscreen. Image credit: Getty Images.

20.   Don't print out your flight tickets or hotel details! This one might be hard as it's nice to have things printed out but everything can be kept on our phones nowadays so try to go all digital!

21.   Return tourist maps and other printed pamphlets to your hotel for others to use.

22.   When visiting a city, walk everywhere, take the subway, or rent an e-scooter!


Explore cities by e-scooter
Explore cities by e-scooter. Image credit: Getty Images.

23.   Leave the place better than you found it! It could be as easy as picking up rubbish on the beach. And we’re not saying spend the whole day doing a beach clean, although that would be great (!), but even picking up one plastic bottle on the beach can make a difference - imagine if every tourist did that?!

24.   If you rent a car, consider hiring an electric or hybrid car as these are getting more and more available in certain destinations.

25.   When you shop, favour local markets, small local fashion stores if possible or look for a Fair Trade or similar logo. Or if visiting a big city, shop at vintage stores or eco-friendly boutiques. 


Shop local
Shop local. Image credit: Getty Images.

There are many other ways you can travel sustainably, but this list should get you started! And hopefully this blog has inspired you to talk to us about booking your next sustainable holiday - call us on 1300 676 073. 

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