2017 Predicts Spike In Sustainable Tourism & You Don’t Have To Travel Far

CHICAGO (CBS) — The United Nations has declared 2017 the year of Sustainable Tourism.

This is “a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability—economic, social and environmental,” said the Secretary-General of the World Travel Organization, Taleb Rifai. “While raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued.”

So, what exactly is sustainable tourism?

The United Nations defines sustainable tourism as “that which takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”

Sustainable tourism is not something that requires traveling half way around the world, it is something you can do close to home.  WBBM’s Rob Hart explains.

Liz Wessel, owner of Green Concierge Travel in Madison, Wisconsin said sustainable tourism could apply to any destination, from a ranch in Australia to a weekend in Milwaukee.

“Try to put your money into the local economy,” Wessel said.  “Try and stay at places where they hire local people or you can take local tours, so you are actually supporting employment in those areas and putting your money into those places where you are visiting.”

It means respecting the environment and monuments, both natural and manmade, of your destination and spending your money on local attractions and businesses, Wessel said.

“Living like a local is kind of one of the themes that’s out there,” Wessel said. “And certainly using local transportation. Take a walking tour of a destination and then you get an orientation and learn special things about a place.”

Fifty-two percent of adult travelers said they are more likely to choose travel based on destinations that reduce environmental impact or ensure that tourism has a positive impact on the local community, according to a Booking.com 2015 survey of more than 32,000 global travelers in 16 countries. Americans, which made up 53 percent of the survey, are among the world’s top sustainable-minded travelers.

Wessel said another trend is environmental tourism – seeing things like glaciers in Alaska and low-lying islands before they disappear due to climate change. Adding sustainable tourism is the key to preserving some natural destinations as long as possible.

“The trick will be let’s not love them to death,” Wessel laughed. “But trying to go out and see these places in a sustainable manner.”

Another travel trend is adventure tourism, which focuses on nature, wildlife and cultural experiences. That form of tourism has grown 65 percent, year-over-year since 2009, according to George Washington University’s annual Adventure Tourism Market Report. Adventure tourism helps save animals, holding them at value and preserving their natural habitats.

So when planning your next vacation, consider destinations and accommodations that will help sustain the environment and benefit the local economy.

National Geographic released a list of the top 10 best eco-lodges worldwide.

1. South Africa: Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve
2. Indonesia: Misool Eco Resort
3. Peru: Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica
4. Australia: Great Ocean Ecolodge
5. Greece: Milia Mountain Retreat
6. Nicaragua: Jicaro Island Ecolodge
7. China: Yangshuo Mountain Retreat
8. Sri Lanka: Jetwing Vil Uyana
9. Poland: Eco-Frontiers Ranch
10. Namibia: Damaraland Camp

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