Sustainable travel has come a long way in recent years and not only from a resort and business perspective but also from a traveller perspective. We know that the tourism sector has grown by 69% globally, coupled with the fact that tourists have become a lot stricter about the type of location they visit, how ‘green’ the location is, what experience the resort offers as well as what they are willing to pay for all of this, it’s important for the travel industry to sit up and take notice of these tourist ‘demands’. Ramesh Jeenarain, Managing Director of World Leisure Holidays South Africa, shares his thoughts on what sustainable travel means for travellers and the travel industry at large.

What does sustainable travel mean exactly?

It isn’t just about the environment, and focuses on two more pillars, economic and social factors. From an economic perspective, social impact travel ensures that money spent on a trip or tour remains within the community, that every effort has a positive impact on the environment and that the culture of the country and community aren’t compromised.

Millennials are gaining more spending power but are also more conscious about their impact on the world.  As such, these travellers are demanding sustainable travel options and are willing to pay more to ensure that they are staying at an eco-friendly resort. This type of holidaying, termed barefoot luxury is growing in popularity among holiday-makers and resorts, and holiday accommodation that doesn’t include sustainable travel choices will be doing themselves (and their environment, culture and economy) a huge injustice.

How can the travel industry ensure that it is practising sustainable travel?

By reducing the environmental impact, such as offering paperless check-in and check-out. Offering refillable soap, shampoo and shower gel dispensers for example, reduces the amount of plastic and waste that goes through the accommodation on a daily basis. Donating leftover food to underprivileged communities in the area instead of throwing it away also shows the resort’s commitment to sustainable travel.

Offer locally relevant experiences to tourists, allowing them to really get to know the location they are visiting, this promotes good choices and healthy activities across the locals and the tourists.

Preserving natural sites, lifestyles and the uniqueness of the destination not only attracts tourists but shows local pride and responsibility. Inspiring farm-to-table dining far supersedes imported, endangered cuisine. And actively showing respect for and treating staff, locals and children well can have a huge impact on the type of visitors to the resort.

How can tourists tell whether a resort practises sustainable travel?

Resorts need to ensure that if they are practising sustainable tourism, their offering clearly states that they offer a unique experience which is (if possible) certified eco-friendly accommodation. There are many authentic international certificates that resorts can receive. The Travelife Certification, for example, acknowledges protecting the environment, respecting and treating employees fairly, respecting the local economy, protecting local culture, heritage and wildlife of the destination as well as supporting the local economy and businesses.

The trend towards greener experiences over traditional hotels among travellers continues to grow. Resorts that can show that they are consciously reducing their carbon footprint through their accommodation and activity often rank far higher than skyscraping establishments. Sun Resorts is proud to have been recognised by some of the most famous groups in the hospitality industry. This is an accolade that not only pushes up the popularity of the resorts but also makes them more desirable to those looking to ‘invest’ their vacation time and money into a sustainable establishment.

A final word of advice for sustainable travel in 2018

By managing and communicating their sustainable travel efforts, resorts are able to stay top of mind when holidaymakers are deciding on where to book their next holiday as well as when recommending sustainable tourism to others.