Sustainable tourism is undeniably the way of the future. With the rising warnings of climate change and its detrimental impacts on our natural resources, ecosystems, biodiversity, and the overall natural environment, there has never been a more crucial time to start implementing sustainable development of tourism policies.

Many travelers nowadays are starting to show more concern about the economic, social, and environmental impacts of tourism. It’s essential that tour operators are able to address and cater to these growing interests. By promoting sustainable travel and creating sustainable tourism activities, not only will you be leaving a positive impact on the environment, but you’ll also be paving the way for ecotourism. Furthermore, eco-conscious travelers will also be more prone to book through a sustainable tour operator – attracting a wider audience base for your growing business.

Why is sustainable tourism important for tour operators?

The aim of sustainable tourism is to decrease the detrimental environmental, social, and economic impacts of the tourism industry. According to a report by Green Choices, the tourism industry’s travel sector alone such as aviation, rail travel, and coach accounts for 88% of the industry’s carbon footprint, and a further 20% of the industry’s emissions are the result of the accommodation sector.

With travel back on the cards for many since the pandemic brought the world to a halt, many travelers are ready to embark on years worth of travel that they’ve missed out on. However, many experts fear that this could lead to mass tourism/ overtourism, which could cause a boost in negative impacts on cultural heritage, economic sustainability, and the environment.

What is the role of a sustainable tour operator ?

As a tour operator, you play a significant role in how tourism impacts sustainability.

Since your business and services are necessary for other businesses (such as travel agencies) and consumers to operate and plan itineraries, you hold the power to influence their decisions. Furthermore, you can also influence other tour operators to implement sustainable tourism practices and create sustainable tourism developments within their businesses too.

8 steps towards sustainable tourism tour operators can take

How to promote sustainable tourism

Tour operators and travelers alike have a shared duty to protect the environment and promote sustainability.

Here are 8 suggestions taken from the Global Sustainable Tourism (GST) Council and Sustainable Tourism on how to promote sustainable tourism:

1. Start with sustainable business practices at the office

A lot of the time, sustainability begins at home. And in the case of business practices, the home is the office.

There are numerous ways you can incorporate sustainable practices in the workplace. Some proactive steps to reducing your carbon footprint at the office are:

  • Switch to LED lights
  • Implement a recycling program
  • Permit flexible WFH options for roles where it works
  • Eliminate or limit paper use with digital alternatives or a mobile booking app
  • Install water-saving fixtures
  • Incorporate renewable energy
  • Check machine energy efficiency and replace older, less efficient machines
  • Use hand dryers in the bathroom instead of paper towels

2. Support local communities and businesses

Role of tour operators in sustainable tourism

Tour operators possess the unique opportunity to drive positive change in their local community and help stimulate economic growth.

Supporting local economies will help instill a level of self-sufficiency into the future of your wider community. In turn, this will help attract new tourists to your destination. Here are some tips on how to support local communities as a sustainable tour operator:

  • Recommend locally-owned hotels, restaurants, and shops rather than international chains
  • Run partnerships with local businesses to offer gift vouchers on tours
  • If you provide food on your tour, source your ingredients from local businesses
  • Hire from the local community and provide a fair income for your employees
  • Encourage customers to purchase ethically and responsibly.

3. Reinvest into the community you serve

Consider reinvesting a percentage of your profit back into the broader community. This money can be used to:

  • Invest in infrastructure, clean water, and education
  • Protect local resources and wildlife
  • Donate to local social and environmental projects

4. Choose appropriate travel destinations

While customers find authentic experiences appealing, this authenticity shouldn’t come at the cost of damaging precious resources, sacred cultural sites or the local environment.

Respect local cultures by ensuring that the sites you take your customers to can be exposed to increased foot traffic. Some locations may require visitors to dress or behave in a certain way. Respect will look different from place to place. This makes it particularly important to keep customers informed of what is expected from them.

5. Promote low-emissions travel

Sustainable tourism tour operators

Vehicular travel plays a significant role in the amount of emissions transmitted into the atmosphere. Organizing eco-friendly transportation is a key measure you can take to actively cut down your carbon footprint and support green tourism.

You can also encourage low-emission travel to customers by recommending alternative, low-emission modes of transport to your location. Discourage customers from flying to their location if it isn’t necessary or consider promoting public transport by providing instructive information on your website on how to use local trains or buses to get to your site.

If your tour or activity business incorporates a shuttle service, consider investing in an electric or hybrid vehicle.

6. Ensure customers remain mindful of local cultures

Most of the time when travelers display ignorance of local customers, they are not purposefully trying to be disrespectful. Rather, inappropriate behavior while traveling often arises from a lack of awareness of local cultures.

Take the time to teach your tour customers about local cultural practices and discuss practical ways how customers can respect culture both during and after your tour. Inform your customers about local cultures in a fun and interesting way in order to inspire change.

7. Discourage littering

Everyone knows littering is bad for the environment, but sometimes people litter out of convenience. Encourage your customers to dispose of their litter properly by providing them with rubbish or recycling bags and limiting single-use plastics on your tour. Keep an eye out for littering and step in quickly if you spot out-of-line behavior amongst your customers.

8. Prevent wildlife interruption

Sustainable tourism tour operators

Tourists should never alter the well-being of animals, whether that be by leaving rubbish or being in a close enough proximity to cause the animal stress. Ensure that any interaction between your guests and wild animals takes place at a distance. Teach your guests the importance of limiting interactions with wild animals and avoiding any kind of conduct that damages an animal’s habitat.

Go paperless with an online booking software

A major component of embracing eco-friendly practices in the office is abandoning paper in favor of digital alternatives. By doing so, not only will you be contributing to the environment, but you’ll also be streamlining your processes as well.

By using an online booking software like Rezdy, you’ll be limiting paper use in your business and automating your admin duties. Rezdy allows you to access real-time digital manifests and manage your bookings in an entirely paperless system. By switching to an online booking system, you’ll be enhancing your customer’s booking journey and simplifying your business operations. Saving you time, money and the hassles and headaches of performing all your admin duties manually.

Are you ready to reduce your environmental impact and smoothen your business processes? Start a FREE 21-day trial or book a demo with our team of experts, so you can test-drive a high-quality reservation technology for yourself.

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