It’s spring break, 2012. Let’s imagine that you’ve been granted an all-inclusive week-long stay at a white, sandy beach in some far-off exotic land. Hours before your departure, you run through your mental checklist one last time. Passport? Check. Money? Check. Bathing suit, hat, and sun cream? Check, check, check. Awareness of sustainable tourism practices and respect for local cultures and communities? Huh?
Alright, maybe that last one isn’t so likely. But in an ideal world, aren’t these things we would always keep in mind before flying off into the sunset?
As members of the international community of Pace University and the greater one of New York City, many of us have traveled abroad at one time or another, perhaps to visit family or to study at a foreign university. Although the excitement of experiencing a foreign country often overshadows anything else, it is important to keep in mind the impact our travels have on communities and the environment.
So, sustainable tourism. What is it? According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), sustainable tourism is:
Tourism that 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.
In practice, sustainable tourism fosters an understanding not only of diverse cultures from all parts of the globe, but also of the precious ecosystems upon which these travel destinations are founded. As a sector that generates billions of dollars in annual revenue, the tourism industry is a tremendous force, one that can be harnessed to preserve the integrity of local cultures and environments. Some organizations have already recognized the industry’s potential to make an impact. For instance, The International Task Force on Sustainable Tourism Development (ITF-STD) has already implemented a number of programs and tools to help governments, organizations, and individuals develop better sustainable tourism practices.
A screen shot of “Green Passport,” an internet campaign developed by ITF-STD for young travelers; aims at raising awareness of their potential to contribute to sustainable development by making responsible choices.
Our research aims at gauging the level of students’ knowledge about sustainable tourism and sustainable practices through the use of a survey. From the results, we hope to gain a better understanding of what students know about being a responsible tourist. Eventually, our goal is to present this information to the university so that it might be used to expand the curriculum in the areas of sustainable tourism and sustainability policy in general.
So, Fellow Travelers, let’s hear it: how sustainable are YOUR travel practices?