Embrace slow travel and exploring local to make tourism sustainable
Photographs: Erin Gustafson
Text: Erin Gustafson
How much of Denmark did you discover this summer? With government-supported incentives to explore more locally - many making a life here took advantage to see more of this pretty little country this season. While some braved boarding planes for flights abroad, lots more took to the road and toured nearer to home this year. As it turns out, this trend towards “slow travel’ has positive impacts for both people and the planet. In the wake of a locked-down world, destinations have been able to reset and reimagine what tourism could look like. And we, as travellers, can help.
“Sustainability must no longer be a niche part of tourism but must be the new norm for every part of our sector. This is one of the central elements of our Global Guidelines to Restart Tourism. It is in our hands to transform tourism, and that emerging from
COVID-19 becomes a turning point for sustainability.” – Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization.
Living in Denmark, it is easy to make sustainable choices in our everyday. We bike to work and school or take the train on our commutes. We live in sustainable cities run on clean energy and support local farmers, especially in summer. Who doesn’t love a ripe Danish strawberry? But what about when we travel abroad? What does sustainable travel even mean? Distilled down, sustainable tourism is simply about making choices that lessen our personal environmental burden and afford positive impacts to the economies and communities that we choose to visit.
Here are three ways to look at travel a little differently.
#1 Practice “Slow Travel”
Instead of an itinerary that attempts to tick off everything on a top-10 type bucket list, slow travel is a more measured and immersive way to discover a destination. Pick a place to stay put and peruse from there. Support local producers and makers and eat in regional restaurants. Your travel monies go to local economies, and you experience a bit more about the place that you’ve planted.
#2 Embrace Exploring Local
Maybe the idea of taking a “staycation” lacks the allure of somewhere distant and unknown. But playing tourist in your own backyard can give you a different perspective on the place you call home. Pick a neighbouring village or even a nearby neighbourhood. While you might be able to travel, these communities are missing tourists themselves. You can fill a gap for those businesses as you learn more of your region.
#3 Consider Your Logistics
How you get to your destination is usually the least sustainable part of your journey. Where you choose to stay comes second. Can you take the train? Or bring your bicycle aboard that ferry? A car-full of family or friends that takes to the road still a greener option than four long-haul flights to far off destinations. As for your stay, find a hotel or accommodation that supports local labour and has a commitment to green practices. Switch your search to sustainable sites like Bookdifferent.com or Greenpearls.com to find such spots.
Travel as we knew it might feel like it’s hibernating right now - while we watch borders re-open and constrict as restrictions and requirements change on the regular. But instead of being devastated about the end of easy, cheap flights to far off corners of the planet - maybe we consider that the industry is just in a cocoon, all wrapped up and waiting. Evolving into something better. Better for the environment, better for individual destinations and better for the visitors themselves. Transitioning your travel thinking towards making more mindful choices is a great place to start.