2020 has been a year that forced us all to be more socially conscious. Every step, every move and every direction we take will ultimately have an effect on others’ lives. Not just in regards to health, as made obvious by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in all other sectors, particularly in tourism.
The idea of ‘sustainable tourism’ has become more than ever increasingly relevant. It is essentially about taking into consideration the current as well as the future economic, social and environmental impacts, while addressing the needs of the community and the environment. It can also be defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”
As a sector, it can play a major role in accelerating progress for the achievement of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. By redirecting the focus towards local communities, sustainable tourism help achieve national poverty reduction goals through entrepreneurship and small businesses, it can also be a powerful tool for reducing inequalities when local populations are deeply engaged, allowing rural development to flourish and giving people the chance to grow in their own habitat without having to travel to urban areas.
However, it’s important to also differentiate between “shallow ecotourism/sustainable tourism” and “deep ecotourism.” Shallow sustainable tourism uses natural views and reserves as a source of aesthetic pleasure to tourists to obtain revenue, completely diminishing the role of local communities. On the other hand, “deep ecotourism” destroys the idea that nature and humans are separate, and instead calls for more community participation and valuing local cultures in their own habitat and environment.