Can travel really be sustainable? That is the question we probably get asked the most and which is why we need to look at the original definition of sustainability: “Being able to meet the needs of present generations without compromising the needs for future generations.”
Sustainability and sustainable development is about creating a balance. Putting back as much as we use, and more in some cases. So, not overdeveloping on precious land that can’t be restored or extracting resources that can’t be renewed. The balance here is recognising that development and growth can be good, but not if it’s at the expense of future generations, who risk struggling for land to live on, resources to live off and jobs to survive on.
However, we are not convinced that, when it comes to terminology and tourism, the words sustainable and development are always compatible. The flying debate is a case in point, because the minute we leave our homes to go on holiday, we enter the transport torment. The carbon conundrum. The unsustainable use of resources. The minute you switch on any engine, to get to the airport, ferry port or railway station, your sustainability meter starts ticking. And so, sustainable tourism is a contradiction in terms. Which brings us back to definitions, and why we prefer the term ‘responsible tourism’.
The other question that we are always asked: Is the carbon debate a reason to stop travelling? We don’t believe so. Because, fundamentally, we believe that travel is a force for good. It’s unlikely that a technical breakthrough in aviation fuel will happen in time to prevent serious global warming. Our only conclusion is that we must fly less, and when we do fly we must travel responsibly to ensure local benefit. We can keep shouting this from the rooftops, but the reality is that unless there is a global limiting agreement or international taxation on flying, people will still fly. Read more on our view of flying, and how to do so more responsibly, here
In short, at Responsible Travel we don’t like to overclaim, or pretend that sustainable holidays are really possible. They aren’t, unless you walk, swim, cycle there, stay in a sustainably built hotel with only renewable energy, and eat nothing but locally sourced organic food. Then you might win the prize.