Sustainability in the tourism sector
Author: Responsible Tourism Institute
It is undeniable that the word “Sustainable” is currently attracting a great deal of interest. Not only among the population, which, increasingly informed and aware of the future challenges posed by climate change and globalisation, is beginning to worry about more responsible consumption, but also by governments and companies themselves, which, encouraged by relevant international organisations such as the WTO or the United Nations, are allocating more and more resources to adapt to the new trends and models that will enable their future survival.
As we know, “being sustainable” today implies not only being able to continue to carry out an activity without compromising the development opportunities of future generations but also respecting and promoting the survival in the presence of natural environments, cultural identity and the development of welfare states.
Although it may not seem so, the concept of “sustainability” emerged only a few decades ago, with talk of sustainable development beginning in 1972 with the famous 1st Earth Summit in Stockholm. After years in circulation, new concepts were developed with the pooling of numerous experts in the field, professionals from different fields of activity and international institutions that, by organising events such as the First World Conference on Sustainable Tourism in Lanzarote (Canary Islands, Spain), managed to mobilise the global community to get involved in this matter.
Today, thanks to the advances of new technologies, access to information, the experience of these years of work and the evolution of what we can understand as “sustainable tourism development”, we are able to set realistic, measurable and achievable objectives to work towards the imperative of sustainability; a path that is undoubtedly constant and full of shades of grey, in which the question is not to be one extreme or the other, but to implement efforts that gradually allow us to move towards a future that we now frame in the so-called Horizon 2030.
In this sense, we should not be critical or sceptical in this matter; it will be difficult to find a person, company or entity capable of carrying out its activity in a 100% sustainable manner. However, what we will undoubtedly be able to see and value are those good practices and models that are being adopted by organisations and communities all over the world, with which to implement more and more efforts aligned with sustainability.
We must also bear in mind at all times that sustainability is not just an environmental issue, but involves working to achieve a balance between environment, governance and economy, and society and culture. However, in the face of the growing fashion and trend for “eco” and “sustainable”, we often seem to forget this.
In fact, one of the mistakes that many tourism companies make when starting out on the road to sustainability is to focus their efforts, solely or to a greater extent, on one of these three main pillars. For example, as is the case with the “eco-tourism” trend, where efforts are implemented mainly on the environmental side. While these are actions that contribute to making their activity a more sustainable model, this does not mean that they are exclusively entities aligned with sustainable development, as in many cases they are not taking into account or working on other aspects that are also included in this broad term, such as more social issues or those related to aspects such as economic growth, respect for cultural identity or transparency.
At this moment, we can affirm that the global tourism industry still has a long way to go in terms of sustainability, but with more aware, informed societies and access to innovative changes and technological advances, the future looks bright and promising.