Sustainable Tourism Requires Sustainable Communities

Though we are still in lockdown at the moment, people are looking ahead. Those involved in the tourism industry, and those with an interest in eco travel are considering the future. Not just ‘return to normal’ – but how we can implement a green recovery.

There is a growing awareness that tourism and travel in general must be sustainable, in environmental, social and economic terms. But how can we drive things in the right direction? How can we create a thriving sustainable tourism industry?

I’ve working at the moment for an article for Edinburgh Magazine sustainable tourism and on how the city can rebuild better post lockdown. Which is what has led to me thinking more generally on the topic.

In my view, as we rebuild after the pandemic, it is crucial that we do not put the cart before the horse. We must ‘look to our own’ before we think about welcoming visitors. There is, understandably, a strong push to return to more ‘normal’ levels of income from tourism.

But I think it is important to remember that sustainable tourism rests on the bedrock of sustainable communities. A community that is not sustainably able to meet its own needs – the needs of all its inhabitants -is not truly resilient enough to welcome a high influx of guests.

When it comes to water, food, energy etc. a resilient community should be where it needs to be before there is a massive drive to welcome back visitors. We need to look at natural systems and infrastructure to make sure communities themselves have what they need.

Sustainable travel can, of course, bring great things for a destination – economic and otherwise. But neglecting natural resources and basic needs means that even the most considerate of visitors will put strain on systems, and people can be left behind.

So as we seek to rebuild, we have to look holistically at society – we need to work on communities and their basic needs before we turn our attention to green tourism. Rebuilding sustainable travel can play an important role in recovery. But it should be just a little further down the line.

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