Sustainable Tourism according to the United Nation World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is “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”
The UNWTO last October in her continued efforts towards reinforcing the importance of Sustainable Tourism set up a working group of experts comprising of policy experts and statisticians specializing in sustainable development, environment and Tourism to develop a statistical framework for Measuring Sustainable Tourism (MST) in all ramification (economic, environmental and social) at the global, national and sub-national levels
Sustainable Tourism aims to optimally use natural resources while still protecting the natural environment for the collective and beneficial needs of humanity in a systematic manner that prevents tourism related economic activities from disrupting the cultural heritage, norms and traditional values of the locality.
Unmanaged tourism related activities can unintentionally damage cultural sites, which essentially informed the creation of the World Monument Fund sustainable tourism guides for visitors who truly care for the natural environment to travel responsibly:
Sustainable Tourism guides
- Know the History – Before travelling to an unfamiliar destination, learn about the people’s history, culture, norms and traditions. Be acquainted with local language basic words for greetings, directions and food.
- Reduce Your (Carbon) Footprint – Walking, biking, and trekking or exploring one place in-depth is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. At urban destinations, walk or take public transit whenever possible. You’ll see more and avoid getting stuck in rush-hour traffic
- Be Eco-Friendly – Conservation in whatever means that is beneficial to the environment should be given utmost attention by travellers. The intent is on not creating harm to the environment and the prevention of harm that may be attributable to human interraction with the environment
- Respect the Local Culture – Show respect for and interest in the local culture. At sacred sites, dress modestly, speak softly, and be mindful of people who are there to worship. Seek out local celebrations and festivals – they can provide a unique glimpse into local culture and are a fun way to meet locals, sample traditional foods, and learn about your destination’s heritage.
Go Off the Beaten Path – Visit lesser-known places, they may be far more rewarding than tourist hotspots. Goore Island in Dakar Senegal is a major tourist attraction for all visiting the country, however, the pink lake known as lac Rose is a beautiful destination away from the capital.
- Be Gentle in Your Travel – Be mindful of visitor wear and tear. Visiting crowded sites at off-peak hours or popular destinations in the off-season will reduce your impact. Stick to marked paths. Wear comfortable footwear such as sneakers; heels can damage fragile sites. Don’t climb on monuments or touch rock carvings, as it can damage them.
- Don’t Be Flashy with Photos – Take only photographs, and make sure that a flash is permitted because a flash can damage centuries-old artwork. Be aware of local traditions when photographing people and when in doubt, ask permission before snapping a picture and never remove anything from a site no matter how small or insignificant it may look.
- Buy Local – Support the local economy by buying crafts from local artisans as souvenirs. Be wary of “antiquities” as these could be looted or forgeries. Patronize smaller hotels and local restaurants—that way the money you spend boosts the local economy and helps preserve heritage.
Join the Cause – Help threatened sites by donations or volunteering locally or volun-tourism to help preserve heritage sites in other locations.
Educate – Inspire people around you by sharing your own experiences about responsible heritage tourism on the numerous social platforms.
References: WTO, WMF