Sustainable tourism, eco and green tourism defined

Sustainable tourism definitions worth knowing

Sustainable tourism is one of many terms that sound similar but refer to different things.

Essentially, Sustainable Tourism aims to minimize the negative impacts of tourism and maximize the positive impacts. It is an aspiration to acknowledge all impacts made by tourism, both positive and negative.

The negative impacts of a destination include economic leakage, damage to the environment, and overcrowding.

Job creation, cultural heritage preservation, wildlife preservation, and landscape restoration all have positive impacts on a destination.

Sustainable tourism is defined by the UN Environment Program and UN World Tourism Organization as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of travelers, the industry, the environment, and host communities.”

Furthermore, they state that sustainable tourism “refers to the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development and that a suitable balance between these three dimensions must be established for long-term sustainability” (UNEP & UNWTO, 2005: 11-12). Making Tourism More Sustainable – An Overview for Policy Makers).

Ecotourism definition

In the late 1980s, ecotourism emerged as a niche segment of tourism in natural areas.

It is an ethically managed form of natural resource-based tourism that emphasizes experiencing and learning about nature, and is environmentally friendly, non-consumptive, and locally oriented, as described by Feennell: “Ecotourism is a sustainable form of natural resource-based tourism”. It typically occurs in natural areas, and should contribute to the conservation or preservation of such areas”

(2000), the Mohonk Agreement, a proposal for international certification of sustainable tourism and ecotourism, defined ecotourism as “sustainable tourism centered on natural areas, which benefits the environment and the communities visited, and fosters appreciation, understanding, and awareness of the environment and culture.”

According to the Global Ecotourism Network (GEN), ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that preserves the environment, supports the well-being of locals, and creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education (visitors, staff, and visitors).

Responsible travel definitions

The term “Responsible Travel” refers to the behavior of travelers who strive to minimize the negative impacts of tourism and maximize the positives.

Visit the GSTC website For Travelers for more information about how to be a responsible traveler.

A comparison of Sustainable Tourism, Ecotourism, and Responsible Travel

In natural areas, ecotourism is a niche segment of tourism.

Sustainable tourism does not refer to a specific type of tourism, but rather an aspiration for all forms of tourism to be sustainable for the future.

‘Responsible Travel’ refers to the behavior and style of individual travelers. Behaviors are aligned with making a positive impact on the destination rather than a negative one.

GSTC Criteria for Sustainable Tourism

GSTC Criteria serve as global standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. They’re used for education and awareness-raising, policy-making, measurement and evaluation, and certification.

There are four pillars of sustainability in tourism: (A) Sustainable management; (B) Socioeconomic impacts; (C) Cultural impacts; (D) Environmental impacts.

In developing these standards, industry experts around the world were extensively consulted, both in developed and developing countries. They reflect our goal of attaining a global consensus on sustainable tourism.

The process of developing the Criteria was designed to adhere to the standards-setting code of the ISEAL Alliance. Informed by relevant ISO standards, that code serves as a guide for the management of sustainability standards across all sectors.

Finally, the GSTC Criteria are the starting goals that businesses, governments, and destinations should aim to achieve. Tourism destinations each have their own culture, environment, customs, and laws. Consequently, the Criteria are designed to be adapted to local conditions and supplemented by additional criteria for specific locations and activities.

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GSTC Criteria


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