Crafty travel marketers try to stay a step ahead of the curve and predict what is the next big thing–that’s their job but it can make some of the rest of us cynical. I must say, I am heartened that in spite of every Tom, Dick, and Harry “greenwashing” their product these days to try and appeal to caring consumers–I appreciate the shift in the zeitgeist that makes that actually seem like the thing to do. Sustainability is a big buzzword, and for good reason. It matters, and as it matters more and more to us as travel consumers, it will matter more and more to the providers, since we are demonstrating its importance.
Toward that end, a large global effort has been launched: The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, an effort to share the definitions of sustainability across the travel, tourism, and hospitality markets. Previously, like “organic” and “natural” on food labels, you could pretty much slap the adjective “sustainable” on your airline, hotel, taxicab, restaurant, tour company, even nation…and we’d all just shrug and assume it was a good thing. The new, specific criteria:
“focus on an integrative, interdisciplinary, and holistic approach which includes four main objectives: to (i) demonstrate sustainable destination management; (ii) maximize social and economic benefits for the host community and minimize negative impacts; (iii) maximize benefits to communities, visitors, and cultural heritage and minimize impacts; and (iv) maximize benefits to the environment and minimize negative impacts.”
That's not much more than a lot of verbiage for most of us, but this is designed to be a systematic and measurable change in the way tourism is handled worldwide, a global baseline to which every tourism destination in the world ought to be held accountable. As we, the travelers, continue to expect and demand the places we spend money be a force that betters their communities, they will work harder on our behalf. Nobody ever wants their footprints to harm a beautiful spot in the world…it’s just that we haven’t always realized we could insist that they don’t.
It’s good news.