Sustainable Tourism

According to the UN World Tourism Organisation sustainable development in tourism can be defined as ‘Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities’

The world is facing serious environmental, economic and social challenges including climate change, rapid depletion of natural resources, the dependency of our economic systems on consumerism and increasing levels of poverty. In this context there is a greater sense of urgency than ever before of the need to adopt sustainable ways of living. The origin of the concept of sustainable development can be traced to the UN Commission on Environment and Development. Its report, Our Common Future(1987) called for a sustainable approach to development  ‘which meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to  satisfy their needs’ (WCED, 1987:8).

As a Chartered Environmentalist with a MSc in Education for Sustainability I am very aware of sustainability issues at both local and global scales and for visitors who want to learn more about the issues I share stories of the local impacts of climate change which are already evident and the predicted future consequences of climate change. On our farm we have participated in a range of agri-environmental schemes over the last 15 years with very positive outcomes. For example, the population of yellowhammers was in decline and we participated in an  eight year project to reverse the decline in numbers through implementation of nature -friendly farming practices. As a result of this approach by a group of farms there was a dramatic reversal in the decline of this species. I chose the yellowhammer as my business logo as I want to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity and to be able to demonstrate from my own experience that we can all do our bit for the environment. In my tour guiding business, Ards Peninsula Tours, I encourage visitors to slow down, smell the wild roses, experience the landscape through the ‘soles of their feet’ which gives a sense of connection to the place and
nature, enables the visitors to experience the place with all their senses. Walking tours are environmentally friendly. For coach tours we encourage people to spend more time in one region rather than sitting on a coach for lengthy journeys to see many places but ultimately to know little of the rich heritage and culture of the people and place. It is far more interesting and more fulfilling for visitors to get a ‘sense of the place’ rather than a superficial ‘drive- thru’ experience. Tourists who stay longer in a region benefit the host communities and are therefore supporting rural communities and contributing to their longterm sustainability which is a very important way tourists can exercise their power to support local businesses and ‘do their bit for sustainability’ while on holiday.

The time has come for people to accept that current lifestyles in western countries are unsustainable and that there is a need to live within environmental limits. This implies significant social change and I believe that sustainability is a social and cultural challenge facing societies around the world.

Sustainable development is a term that cannot have a single, simple and agreed meaning. Its’ meanings are contested and a key function of education for sustainability is to help people to reflect and act on these meanings and to consider what changes in personal and societal values and lifestyles are needed if we are to be guardians of the environment for future generations. We offer talks and workshops on the theme of education for sustainable living and if you may be interested in this please complete an enquiry form.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation is responsible for the promotion of sustainable and accessible tourism around the world. Each one of us has a responsibility to play our part by choosing to live by sustainability principles. The time for action is now.

read more