Green Tourism: The New Travel Experience

Credit: Allyson Koerner

Credit: Allyson Koerner

The New Way to Travel Responsibly While Benefitting the Environment and Creating Educational Experiences

Like the famous movie title, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, these are the basic forms of transportation most people use when traveling. 

As most know, alternative forms of transportation are encouraged these days’ to protect the environment, especially when going on vacation and touring an exciting new location. 

However, the tourism industry is changing and for the better. The growing trend of responsible tourism or “green tourism” is becoming the new and improved way to travel. 

So, what exactly is responsible tourism? Definitions vary, but it generally involves traveling sustainably, helping the environment, aiding people and preserving culture.

According to Ayako Ezaki, director of communications for The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), “It’s a way of traveling with the emphasis on social, environmental and economic aspects of travel experiences that take into consideration the impact that you are making on the destination you visit and people you visit and a more responsible approach to your travel experience.” 

It’s really about every step of the way when it comes to responsible tourism such as, choosing where to go, where to stay, what activities to do and why to travel to that place, Ezaki said. 

Responsible travel exists in all forms and can even be incorporated into an urban environment, such as Boston. 

As Ezaki noted, even urban environments can be made more sustainable and people in the ecotourism field are developing new achievements in this area. 

For example, more and more cities continue to integrate green initiatives into businesses and local surroundings. 

For Boston, green tourism is becoming more and more popular, but Daniel Ruben, executive director of Boston Green Tourism (BGT), said it has always been known for its green tourism. Boston is constantly growing, which affects the environment. 

“It’s like a city moves into Boston everyday and it’s a very consumptive city,” Ruben said. “Around 40-50,000 people stay in hotels everyday and that’s a group of people that are a pollutive group.” 

So, how big of an impact does responsible tourism really make compared to the traditional travel experience? 

Hotels contribute greatly to the green tourism industry and several improvements can be seen from these particular environments becoming eco-friendly. 

“Some hotels reduce fossil fuel use by 40 percent, water use by 25 percent, improved indoor air quality and indoor air toxins that have impacted their staff,” Ruben said. 

The traditional tourism industry creates many negative environmental impacts including coral reefs that are damaged by cruise ship anchors and sewage. In addition, ships in the Caribbean can produce more than 70,000 tons of waste each year, the TIES website states. 

“[Green tourism is] important like greening anything is important,” Ruben said. “We face global warming and other environmental issues that affect our future.” 

Traveling green is a continuous process and won’t happen overnight. Ezaki noted the ultimate goal of the tourism industry is to make responsible tourism the norm and the common way to travel. 

According to TIES, ecotourism continues to grow each year by 20 to 34 percent. “[Also], in 2004, ecotourism/nature tourism was growing globally three times faster than the tourism industry as a whole.” 

“I think when you think about the tourism industry globally and how large the sector is on terms of environmental and economic impact, every small step really matters and it will take a long time for us to get there,” Ezaki said. “When it becomes more mainstream, it will make a bigger impact on the footprints of the tourism industry.” 

Just like environmental awareness, eco-tourism awareness is growing every day, especially since the recession and economic downturn. 

“In some interesting way, the economy and the difficulties have had some good influence on the people and is reflecting on [their] behavior and consumption,” Ezaki said. “I don’t think there has been any statistics to back [this] up, but hearing from some of our members it has been shown.” 

Furthermore, Ezaki noted that, “Also, with climate change people are becoming more aware of these things and want to know what they can do.” 

Not only are individuals striving to become more eco-friendly, but so are countries and nations as a whole. 

According to Ezaki, Costa Rica, Kenya, Tanzania and Australia are all engaged in sustainable tourism. On the other hand, Europe, France, Germany and the United States are very strong in mass tourism, but are all showing efforts to become more sustainable in tourism. 

“I think responsible tourism and travel is really about doing the best that we can,” Ezaki said. “Each one of us should try to reduce negative impacts in every way that we can.”  

~Allyson Koerner