Germans take around 70 million longer trips a year. The tourism industry makes a significant contribution to total gross value added. A total of 2.9 million people were employed in tourism in 2016 (see: Tourism Policy Report of the German Federal Government, 2017). Worldwide, tourism even provides a job for one in eleven people.
Sustainable tourism has been on the agenda of tourism professionals in Germany for over 30 years. It is often referred to as soft, intelligent tourism or tourism with responsibility. Sustainable tourism not only meets the demands of tourists and the local population, but also uses resources in a way that satisfies economic, social and aesthetic needs while preserving cultural integrity, ecological processes and biodiversity.
Political and institutional authorities of a destination can create the basis for a sustainable development of the tourism region with favorable framework conditions and strategies. Networking within the service providers of the destination additionally favors the implementation of the corresponding measures. The concept refers to all forms of tourism, niche products as well as mass tourism offers.
Why is sustainable tourism important?
Tourism is a contributor to and at the same time affected by the consequences of climate change. Tourist traffic in particular results in the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), which contributes significantly to climate change. Travel by car, bus, ship or plane in particular has a significant impact on CO2 emissions.
Tourism must also adapt to the changed framework conditions in order to make the industry fit for the future and adapt to the changes.
Air pollution is generated in tourism by a variety of sources from traffic to heating to campfires. Some recreational activities and events are also associated with air pollution. Additionally, pollutants may be emitted into the soil. Air and noise pollution also pose health risks to the local population.
Water pollution and water scarcity - Water always has a natural attraction for travelers. In water-scarce regions, water consumption by locals and tourists is increasingly becoming a problem, and competition arises between the local economy and population and tourism. Through water withdrawals or pollution, tourism significantly affects the drinking water of a region.
Tourist infrastructure requires a lot of space. When new buildings are erected for tourism purposes, soils are sealed and foreign materials are applied to the ground. This impairs the natural soil function, which leads to microclimate changes, flooding and overheating in summer.
In addition to the ecological aspect, the increasing shortage of housing for the local population is a considerable problem. Overpricing and misuse of housing are increasing in areas frequented by tourists and, in extreme cases, are even forcing the local population to move to regions with a lower cost of living. The departure of locals in turn causes the loss of large parts of regional authenticity and thus indirectly reduces the attractiveness for the guest.
Buildings, infrastructure, signage, benches – all as close as possible to the special nature and sight. This inevitably leads to a change in the landscape and the appearance of the place, especially if the building style is not adapted to the existing traditions.
The above-mentioned interventions and changes in the environment have a direct impact on biodiversity. Protecting and preserving biodiversity is the basis for a natural area that can be used for tourism in the long term.
As already mentioned in point 3), a tourist destination is attractive above all if it can be experienced in an authentic cultural way. The basis for this is the protection and preservation of tradition and customs in the region. For example, mass tourism use of different cultural assets can lead to a decrease or loss of authenticity.
This also includes the demand for regional providers and local added value. Many hosts already attach great importance to processing local products and to directly commissioning services in the region. This in turn benefits regional development through the creation of jobs and also through the creation of socially sustainable working conditions.
What can I do as a traveler?
✔ Give preference to destinations nearby.
✔ Avoid air travel and cruises.
✔ Give preference to travel providers or offers with binding environmental and social standards.
✔ Behave as environmentally friendly on vacation as you do at home.
✔ Be considerate of sensitive habitats, animals and plants & observe the behavioral guidelines
✔ Discover environmentally friendly vacation options
✔ Look out for certified offers - an overview of the most common seals can be found on the website of the Federal Environment Agency
✔ Choose environmentally friendly leisure activities and use existing offers at the vacation destination (bus and train, e-bikes, bicycles, etc.) to get around.