Sustainable tourism: how to travel like a pro without harming the environment

May 27, 2022


Travelling is one of life’s most exciting and rewarding experiences. You can disconnect from daily routines, broaden your horizons, explore unfamiliar places, make new connections, and discover new cultures.

Tourism is also a leading economic sector, contributing 5% of the world’s GDP in 2020 and is one in 12 jobs globally and is a major export sector for many countries, both in the developing and developed world

As much as travel can be fun and beneficial for the economy, tourism is responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. From taking flights to buying souvenirs and from hotel air conditioning to fresh daily bed linen — travel leaves a carbon footprint behind.

Luckily, you don’t have to eliminate travelling from your life. Instead, you can take steps to make travel more sustainable. 

Tourism sustainability

The terms ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable’ became popular in the 1980s. And they emerged in the context of a growing awareness of an imminent ecological crisis. 

Nowadays, ‘sustainable’ has become a bit of a buzzword used in various contexts, e.g., sustainable transportation, sustainable development, and sustainable travel.

In terms of sustainable travel, though, it isn’t always understood. A 2019 National Geographic survey found that 42% of travellers would be willing to prioritise sustainable travel in the future, but only 15% knew what sustainable travel meant.

The rise of the tourism industry

Compared to 2019, global tourism dropped 83% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite every man-made crisis, natural disaster and economic downturn, tourism has always remained resilient and bounced back. 

Thanks to vaccinations and milder travel restrictions, numbers are rising again. The World Tourism Organisation predicts that by 2030 international tourist arrivals will reach 1.8 billion.

The pandemic didn’t just affect the travel industry’s statistics — it let us look at travelling from a different perspective and how we can approach it more responsibly. 

The latest tourism trends 

People are becoming more conscious about how climate change may affect their future travel plans, and they’re ready to take action. For example, 40% of European travellers would stop flying to help mitigate climate change

Responsible, sustainable tourism is here to stay. So let’s have a closer look at the trends that will shape this movement.

Slow travel 

Slow travel came into focus in the summer of 2020. This travel approach is all about connection: to local people, culture, food, and music. It’s based on the concept that travel should educate and have an emotional impact while remaining sustainable for local communities and the environment.

Slow travel is considered sustainable due to its longer-term stays in one area, less commuting, and supporting local communities, e.g., eating at local restaurants and buying food from local farmers. 

Sustainable tourism

Sustainable tourism focuses on minimising the negative and maximising the positive impacts of tourism on the environment, society, and economy. 

Travellers now expect more transparency about travel companies’ sustainability initiatives. Frequent travellers are also more aware of the negative impact of travelling and are keen to choose more eco-friendly options — nearly 69% of travellers expect the industry to offer more eco-friendly travel options.

Fortunately, companies are becoming alert to these trends. You can now make more environmentally-friendly choices when you book a flight and choose flights with lower carbon emissions.

Sustainable transport choices

Given that planes lead the way in emissions, there’s a trend to choose greener forms of transport or reduce the number of flights per year. 

A 2019 UBS survey found that, on average, one in five travellers in the USA, France, Britain, and Germany had cut air travel by at least one flight in the past year because of climate concerns.

For shorter trips that take less than 5 hours, 71% of European consumers prefer trains over planes

And when you’ve arrived in a new place and want to explore, use public transport or micromobility options such as electric scooters and bikes. 

For example, Bolt’s safe, affordable and eco-friendly e-scooters and bikes are available globally in more than 100 cities. With an e-vehicle, you can visit places away from the typical, touristy areas in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism is concentrated on creating better places for people to live and visit. Responsible tourism isn’t just about preserving local heritage and being mindful of the environment — it’s about respecting local inhabitants and their culture. 

Even though responsible tourism is similar to sustainable tourism, the latter is the overall goal of travelling responsibly.

Here’s how to be a responsible traveller: 

  • Say no to plastic — carry reusable bags and bottles;
  • Say no to fresh linen and towels every day — by reusing these fabrics, hotels have fewer energy demands;
  • Book eco-friendly accommodation;
  • Carry less luggage — it won’t significantly lower emissions, but it will at least reduce fuel use;
  • Use digital tickets to save paper;
  • Unplug electrical appliances when you’re away;
  • Use green transportation when you need to move around — choose electric bikes or scooters for shorter distances.

Request a green ride

At Bolt, we offer sustainable rides — through ride-hailing and micromobility — in more than 400 cities worldwide. 

Download the app and start making small steps towards a greener future.


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