A practical guide for good tourism
In its simplest definition, tourism is the activity of travelling and visiting different places. There are many benefits of tourism where it’s creating positive impact for the environment and local communities. However, when it’s not done right, tourism can cause significant disadvantages and a negative impact. That’s why, we need good tourism.
In this article
What is the role of tour operators?
Tourism is an industry that drives people to travel for leisure and fun. In particular, it’s a set of inter-connected activities of people while travelling to different places. Thus, the tourism industry consists of many industries that directly and indirectly provides products and services to tourists.
From tour operators, hotels and restaurants, to local fishing companies, constructors and local communities. Many industries, and with that people, are dependent of tourism for the survival of their business. The task of the tour operator is to:
- Facilitate and operate the tourism activities for travellers
- To map and advise on their trip
- Book the right accommodations and experiences
- Make the trip as comfortable and unique as possible
- To create a positive impact on the destination
What is the impact of tourism?
Tourism is a sensitive industry that can bring both benefits as problems to a destination. If tour operators don’t consider the well-being of local communities or the pressure on the environment, it will most likely have disadvantages at the destination.
Below overview shows the positive and negative impact tourism can create on a destination. If done right, tourism is in the position to create a better life for everyone at the destination, the traveller included.
- Builds destinations’ image and brand
- Economic growth contributor
- Increased employment
- Training opportunities for locals
- Increased local spending
- Preservation of local culture
- Conservation of environment
- Protection of wild animals
- Developed infrastructure and facilities
- Greater demand for local food & crafts
- Cross-cultural interactions
- Environmental-friendly experiences
- Overtourism and overcrowding
- Leakage to western companies
- Seasonal and poorly paid jobs
- Dependency of tourism
- Local prices increase
- Loss & exploitation of cultural identity
- Damage to environment
- Exploitation of wild animals
- Increased carbon emissions
- Commercialisation of culture
- Culture clashes
- Increased (plastic) pollution
Why do we need good tourism?
The tourism industry has great impact on (local) economies, and it leaves a large footprint on the environment. As shown above, tourism can cause significant negative impact on destinations, nature and local communities. As tourism industry, and especially tour operators, we have the responsibility to offer tourism that is responsible and benefits the destination.
Services and experiences that create a positive impact. Tourism that is done right, in a responsible way and that makes the world a better place. In the end it comes down to fair tourism where everyone involved is treated right.
From the traveller, to local guides, lodge owners, nature and wildlife. To move towards good tourism, the decision-making process needs to change. As tour operators, you’ll need to take into account people, planet and profit in tourism management and development.
What is good tourism?
The big question remains, what is good tourism? How can you ensure you’re creating experiences that have a positive impact on the destination and are minimising the negative effects? We can call it sustainable tourism, responsible tourism, green tourism, eco-tourism or good tourism, in the end it all comes down to creating a futureproof tourism industry that does well for everyone.
To guide you in the process towards good tourism, you can use the triple bottom line model as guidance. This framework balances people, planet and profit and focuses on creating greater business value and a better world.
The People bottom line refers to respecting and benefitting local cultures and communities in a destination. Conserve their living and built cultural heritage and authentic values and contribute to equal opportunities and inter-cultural understanding.
The Planet bottom line refers to protecting natural areas and wildlife, supporting a viable natural environment. Make the best use of environmental resources in your experiences and help conserving natural heritage and biodiversity.
The Profit bottom line refers to ensuring fair long-term, profitable economic activities. Provide socio-economic benefits to all parties involved, offer stable and local employment opportunities, and prevent leakage by supporting the local economy.
How do you implement good tourism in practice?
The theoretical part of good tourism is clear. Take the triple bottom line into account in your tourism management and development process and focus on ensuring a futureproof tourism industry. But how does good tourism look like practically? What aspects are important and how do you implement them?
To make it easier and more accessible for you, we’ve created an overview of the key aspects of good tourism and how to implement them. Important to remember is that good tourism can be implemented in endless ways and that the list below is not the only right way. Good tourism is all about finding the right way for your own business, destination, local stakeholders and customers.
1. Travel off the beaten track
Overtourism has become a serious issue worldwide. Cities, beaches and heritage sites are overcrowded with travellers. Destroying it for both locals as other travellers. This impacts the image of the destination as well. To combat overtourism, the best solution is to spread the travellers. Take them off the beaten track to have more local people benefit from tourism, spare the environment and heritage sites, and offer more unique experiences.
2. Support the local economy
The tourism industry is a significant contributor to the economic growth of destinations. It allows an economy to develop a new form of income as it allows communities to diversify their sources of income and to not rely on a single one. However, to prevent leakage to western countries and businesses, make sure to spend your money locally and advise your customers to do the same. Purchase and book with local businesses and ensure fair prices at all times.
3. Create local employment opportunities
One of the most obvious examples of good tourism is that it creates jobs for local people. From tour guides, drivers, hotel maids to locals selling food or crafts. Work with local people and train and qualify them to be excellent in their job. They are responsible for good tourism on the ground and know the destination best. Provide them with fair wages and appropriate benefits.
4. Develop culture community-based tourism
By turning local culture into an authentic and meaningful experience, you are not only satisfying customers, you are also preserving this local culture. Use tourism to protect their cultural identity. Collaborate respectfully with local communities to avoid commercialisation. Give them means to keep their culture and traditions alive and relevant. Have travellers learn about their ancient local culture and facilitate cross-cultural interactions to create a win-win situation.
5. Raise awareness among travellers
To ensure that community-based tourism is developed and practiced well, it’s essential travellers are educated about the local destination, culture and local customs. They need to be informed about the do’s and don’ts, how to behave and how to dress. Avoiding cultural clashes is all about creating awareness among travellers. Use community-based tourism to broaden their mind and to truly interact with local communities in a respectful way.
6. Conserve natural assets and environment
The tourism industry puts strains on the local environment. It can cause damage with risks such as erosion, pollution, loss of natural habitats and overcrowded beaches. By conserving natural assets and environment, you are directly contributing to a futureproof tourism industry. Avoid damaging the environment by lowering your carbon footprint, contributing to protecting natural areas, paying official park fees and planting trees.
7. Ensure animal welfare
The use of animals in tourism is still common practice in the tourism industry. Unfortunately, the negative impact on animals is enormous. It thereby also puts pressure on animal welfare and conservation. Start to understand your animal footprint and operate accordingly in your business. This basically entails no experiences that involve captive wildlife or interaction with wild animals. Take responsibility for local animal welfare and set the right example!
8. Lower your carbon footprint
The carbon footprint of tourism is relatively large. Of all emissions worldwide, 5 to 8% is caused by the tourism industry. Tour operators are in the position to contribute to slowing down global warming by simply reducing their emissions. Start managing your carbon footprint and identify ways for your business to lowering and compensate CO2 emissions. Start with avoiding domestic flights and including public transport and zero-emission transport modes such as cycling and walking!
9. Say no to single-use plastic
Plastic can be found everywhere. In our oceans, wildlife and in nature. Tourism significantly contributes to the issue by using a lot of single-use plastic during trips and in accommodations. The industry increases litter and pollution in nature and therefore have the responsibility to reduce plastic throughout to avoid pollution. Make clients aware of the issue, offer refillable water bottles and prevent use of plastic bags. Awareness and education is key here.
Move towards a future of good tourism
The tourism industry has proven to have a massive impact on destinations, communities and the environment. It’s a sensitive industry where it can have both positive as negative impact, with all its consequences.
Tour operators have the opportunity and responsibility to move towards good tourism. To create experiences that benefit the destination, that provide a fair income for local communities and that protect the environment and wildlife. This is the future of tourism.