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Holidays with a good conscience - How sustainable tourism redefines the industry

Worldwide tourism revenues in 2018 were approximately 1,450 billion US dollars, making tourism one of the most important economic sectors. In some countries, such as the Philippines, it accounts for up to 20% of the GDP in 2018. But at what price?

"Stop mass tourism!" was the motto of the protest action in Mallorca which more than 50 associations and institutions have called for, including Terraferida and the nature conservation associations GOB. Its spokeswoman Margalida Ramis had declared in the run-up to the rally that they demanded "new alternatives to the tourism model” and that “we must diversify the economy of the island and not depend solely on tourism."

Mass Tourism - a trend with consequences

Mass tourism is probably the most widespread type of tourism. Characteristics for it are: many tourists in a small area, a good transport infrastructure, an international airport and many large hotels. Beaches are usually crowded; the landscape is covered with buildings and the roads are full.

For vacationers, mass tourism often seems to be the most attractive option: All-Inclusive hotels are affordable, offer a wide range of leisure activities and you hardly have to worry about anything - apparently the perfect recreational vacation. In addition, the purchasing power in the regions is increasing: Tourism represents an important economic sector and offers local citizens a wide range of job opportunities.

That sounds pretty good so far, but what's the catch?

Firstly, environmental pollution is increasing dramatically due to the large number of tourists. Secondly, the landscape is being overgrown with buildings and money usually flows into it as a foreign exchange outflow. In some places tourism even prevents the locals from living out their cultural traditions and customs because there is for example no silence or simply too many people. In addition, many of the created jobs are seasonal and can lead to a mono structural dependence on tourism, which in times of political unrest or environmental disasters can lead to enormous economic difficulties for the countries.

What are the alternatives?

Instead of giving up vacation completely, there is another alternative: sustainable tourism. The goal of sustainable tourism is a long-term sustainable development in the areas of environment, economy and society. Therefore, it also consists of these three pillars:

  1. Environment: The number of overnight stays is limited. This prevents the settlement of large hotel chains and, thus, the foreign exchange outflow, as well as the need of large, international airport. The additional creation of nature reserves reduces pollution and waste.

  1. Economy: It is crucial that small and local companies benefit from tourism. Instead of hotels of large hotel chains you can find small pensions that cooperate with local companies from other industries. In addition, employees are guaranteed fair wages and professional prospects.  

  1. Society: It ensures that locals can live their cultural traditions and customs. This is for example done by closing the local church to tourists on Sundays. In addition, citizens will be able to participate in the tourism concept.  

Overall, it is clear that mass tourism is the simpler, but also the more harmful type of tourism. Therefore, it is a good idea to weigh up beforehand whether this is really worth it or whether you can also enjoy a beautiful holiday just as well through sustainable tourism. If you’re interested in trying to implement sustainability to your next trip, you should check out It is a website focused on sustainable tourism which offers different initiatives and further information in order to raise awareness to that matter.

Daria Rafati

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