Sustainable Tourism: 8 Best Holiday Destinations in 2020 ♻️

In the past two decades, the tourism industry has grown exponentially. The amount of international travellers has more than doubled and is expected to rise even further.

An introduction

According to World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the number of international travellers could rise to 1.6 billion with over 370 million being long-haul travellers. In fact, the tourism industry has gotten so big that it now accounts for 10.4% of the world’s GDP with around 313 million jobs. It’s safe to say that the impact of tourism is felt around the world, both positively and negatively. It’s predicted that by 2050, with other economic sectors having greatly reduced their CO2 emissions, tourism is likely to be generating 40% of global carbon emissions.

Just as the tourism industry has grown, so has the need for sustainable tourism. Back in 2002, the Cape Town Declaration produced what is now the widely known phrase: responsible tourism is tourism that creates better places for people to live in and better places to visit. Although the concept of responsible tourism emerged during the environmental awareness movement that rose out of the 1960s and 70s amidst a growing phenomenon of “mass tourism”. But the concept of sustainable tourism has only become more clearly defined in the last few years.

Sustainable tourism has three aspects to it: environmental, social and economic. In tourism context, environmental issues include water, climate change, waste and wildlife. Social issues include working conditions, rights and child safeguarding. Economic issues are related to tourist spending in the local economy and local economic development. The good news is that a lot of countries have started taking note of this growing need for sustainable tourism.

In this article we will look at the 8 best holiday destination for sustainable tourism in 2020. These countries are leading the change by improving their sustainability performance more than most.

1. Slovenia 🇸🇮

For many years now, Slovenia has been committed to sustainable tourism through their innovative Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism. It’s mission is to study and inform organisations throughout the country about the impact of tourism on climate change and encourage them to take action towards adaptation and mitigation.

In the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, Slovenia ranked in the 5th spot for world’s greenest countries. The countries capital city, Ljubljana, was named as the Green Capital of Europe that year as well. In fact, just earlier this year the city earned first place in the Best of Cities category at the Sustainable Destinations Awards hosted by ITB Berlin, the world’s leading travel trade show.

Ljubljana has went the extra mile to limit the effects of CO2 emissions by banning cars from the city centre. Because of the small size of the country you get permanent proximity to nature, almost wherever you go. Slovenia boasts 542m2 of public green space per capita – the most of which is found in Tivoli Park. It leads to two wooded hills, Rožnik and Šišenski hrib, which make for some amazing hiking trails. You can also kayak under the cities bridges to get a new perspective on the picturesque city.

2. Seychelles 🇸🇨

Almost a thousand miles away from the mainland of East Africa, in the western Indian Ocean you will find the island nation of Seychelles. This 115 island archipelago is hard to match in its natural beauty. Seychelles is as close to paradise on earth as you can possibly get. The white-sand beaches, turquoise water surrounded cays and some of the rarest flora and fauna on the planet are just some of the things found in Seychelles arsenal. They are also establishing themselves as a leader in sustainable tourism by implementing various government programmes to protect nature. Serious steps have been taken to protect coral reefs surrounding the islands through close work with the Marine Conservation Society – UK’s leading marine charity.

The country has also created natural reserves, which now include around 50% of Seychelles. A great example of their efforts is the Cousin Island Special Reserve. A former coconut plantation, the island has steadily been restored back to its original vibrant and diverse ecosystem – it’s also carbon neutral. The efforts are not strictly confined to just land – the island is also included in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) scheme. Marine Special Planning (MSP) initiative oversees fishing regulations to maintain the marine ecosystem of the archipelago. Seychelles seems to also be ahead of the curve compared to many other countries by banning certain single-use plastics like plastic bags, cups, plates, cutlery and straws.

3. Spain 🇪🇸

The most popular destination abroad for UK holidaymakers. Spain was visited by almost 19 million Britons last year according to ABTA. Despite the massive numbers of tourists, Spain is powering towards making their tourism industry as sustainable as possible. At the ITB Berlin Sustainable Top 100 Destination Awards in 2019, the popular tourist town of Baiona was recognised in the beaches and seaside category. The South West Coast region in the municipality of Galicia has natural and marine protected status and has committed to banning smoking on beaches.

By 2018, five out of their six beaches were made accessible for visitors with physical disabilities.

Many other places in Spain have been accredited with the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism – an initiative sponsored by the European Commission. Some of these places include Doñana National Park in Andalucia – known for its wetlands and flocks of migratory birds, the volcanic region of Garrotxa in Catalonia and forest-rich Garajonay on the island of La Gomera. All of these places offer sustainable holidays that aim to preserve the ecosystem and community values.

4. Portugal 🇵🇹

The president of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) once said that Portugal’s tourism sector policies ‘should be copied’ by others. Sustainability is promoted through various means, for example by balancing the distribution of tourism demand, specifically by focusing on reducing seasonality. One way they do this is by tracking visitor numbers and where tourists tend to spend most of their time. This helps to avoid overcrowding in popular tourist areas, especially in cities.

Another example of their tourism policies is the government’s attempt at generating value for communities. They achieve this by increasing employment in the tourism sector throughout the country.

When it comes to sustainable tourism in Portugal, a few places stand out. The city of Águeda, the region of Oeste and the coastal towns of Lagois and Cascois have been internationally recognised for their efforts in protecting the landscape. Specifically in Esposende, Alentejo and Sintra-Cascais. Sintra is a small picturesque town, just a short train ride away from the capital city of Lisbon. It’s a popular tourist destination and has been recognised by UNESCO since 1995.

The Azores region was once described by Lonely Planet as ‘Europe’s secret islands of adventure’. But the place is also fast becoming recognised for its sustainability efforts. Three of it’s islands (Graciosa, Flores and Corvo) are recognised as designated biosphere by UNESCO. The archipelago also sports more than 30 Blue Flag beaches – a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education that a beach, marina, or sustainable boating tourism operator meets its stringent standards.

5. Tajikistan 🇹🇯

This landlocked country in Central Asia is becoming a hotspot for hikers and mountain climbers. Due to it’s geographical location it is surrounded by the rugged Pamir Mountains, which are among the highest in the world. Despite this, Tajikistan remains one the least visited countries in the region.

The importance of sustainable tourism in Tajikistan, especially in rural areas cannot be overestimated.

When it comes to sustainable tourism, the government is working closely with NGO programmes like the Pamirs Eco-Cultural Tourism Association (PECTA) to promote tourism in the region and support local communities in rural areas.

Tourists have the opportunity to immerse themselves in local life and help disadvantaged communities economically. The biggest benefactors of this are single mothers and other disadvantaged people from remote areas.

6. Tanzania 🇹🇿

Despite being one of the most popular holiday destinations on the African continent, Tanzania is still one of the world’s poorest countries. For many people in Tanzania, tourism is their bread and butter. The negative impact of that has been poaching. The country is a proud host of many endangered species, but poaching is a serious threat to them (1 in 3 African elephants are poached in Tanzania).

Serious efforts to preserve the countries incredible wildlife are underway with nature reserves expanding and becoming better managed. One example of this is the Chumbe Island Coral Park in the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar. It’s a private nature reserve, which includes a fully protected coral reef sanctuary, as well as a forest reserve. Full of rare wildlife, there is also an education centre for the local people to learn about how they can help the fight for sustainability. Back in 2013 it won an award for water conservation from World Responsible Tourism.

7. Ecuador 🇪🇨

Galápagos Islands have fascinated the world ever since Charles Darwin first set foot there during his voyage in 1825 – a journey that greatly contributed towards his theory of evolution. Over 80% of Ecuador’s land birds, 97% of it’s reptile and land mammal species and around 30% of it’s plants are indigenous to these islands. With this being the case you can expect very close management of the delicate ecosystems of these islands. Can you imagine the potential damage that could be caused by growing tourism?

Luckily, 97% of the Galápagos is designated as a national park, therefore protected. The Galápagos Marine Reserve also protects an extra 50,000 m2 of the ocean around the islands.Tourists are not allowed to explore the islands – independently at least. You can still visit the unexplored waters of Galápagos with some tour companies.

The rest of the country is also working towards sustainability. You can support the local communities economically by joining private cycling tours in the rainforest – like the ones in Shandia village – inhabited by the indigenous Kichwa families. There you will also find chocolate-making classes led by the villagers – an art that is passed down from generation to generation.

8. Nepal 🇳🇵

You might have heard about the existing waste problem on Mount Everest. The country’s tourism department has teamed up with local governments and mountaineering organisations to clean up the mountain. During a 45-day cleaning initiative the clean-up teams extracted nearly 11 tons of waste from the world’s highest peak.

If you plan to visit you should consider giving some of the many community-based tour operators a go. There itineraries are set up in order to support local people, for example taking part in a workshop at Thangka Painting School in Patan or visiting a Tibetan Refugee Centre. Nepal has also been working hard towards conservation efforts of endangered animals – like the Bengal tiger. Bardia National Park is the largest protected area in Nepal and is the home to the Bengal tiger, which population is expected to double by 2022. The National Park also hosts many other animal species such as the Asian elephant and one-horned rhino.

1 Comment

  1. Lana

    I went to Ljubljana last year and it was beautiful! As tourists we really need to be more mindful of our impact on the planet and local communities 🙂


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