Traveling sustainably means choosing destinations that also promote this ideal, as well. More and more, I try to pick locations that have the same ideals that I do. Not only does it easy my mind when I travel, but it also promotes the values I have as a traveler. Whether this means picking places a bit off the traditional tourist path or visiting spots where tourism dollars go back into helping local people, heading to sustainable destinations can have a big payoff for everyone.
Here are some places I would recommend for you to check out when putting together your travel schedule for 2020–all are options that are working hard to keep their natural and cultural wonders intact for future generations.
Palau is a tiny cluster of islands in the Pacific that is making a notable impact in the world of sustainable destinations. In a unique effort to promote sustainability for its travelers, the country has you to sign the immigration stamp in your passport on arrival that pledges to “explore mindfully, tread lightly, and act kindly.” According to the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), this initiative has gone a long way to remind tourists how to act when they reach a new country. If only all countries had us commit to sustainable actions when we entered!
As of 2017, the tiny European country of Slovenia (with a population of just over two million residents) was named one of the sustainable destinations in the world by the European Commission. This came after Green Destinations, a Netherlands-based organization, awarded them with a 96/100 compliance score when measuring criteria points considering the climate and environment, authenticity and culture, biodiversity and nature. If that doesn’t convince you to book your flight for the seemingly-impossible-to-pronounce Ljubljana, then its incredible adventure tourism, culinary scene, and fantastic opportunities for photography might.
Much of Nepal’s success as a country is based on how well it treats its environment. Tourism is such a large part of its economy and without visitors to Everest, its citizens would suffer. After making big changes over the past few years, Nepal has been named one of the top 2020 eco-friendly destinations to visit. The Nepalese government has put together a tourism development plan completely revolving around sustainable environmental, economic, and socio-cultural objectives. It has even been proposed that the country is likely to have this extra motivation to concentrate on tourism. This commitment to sustainability shows that Nepal knows just how valuable its natural resources are.
For ocean lovers, swimming with do whale sharks are likely at the top of your to-do list. However, not all destinations keep the safety of the sharks in mind, and many find themselves participating in whale shark swims that harms these gentle creatures. Millions of people venture to at least ten different destinations across the globe every year to experience swimming with the biggest fish in the sea. If you’ve been thinking about not participating because you don’t want to hurt these animals, you should know that the Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia is different.
An estimated 350-550 whale sharks aggregate each year in this location between the months of March to the end of July. Because the Ningaloo Coast is a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site, all operating tourism bodies in the area must follow their guidelines as it is protected under these regulations to support the best intentions for these wild creatures.
Of course, whale sharks aren’t the only reason why Australia is considered a top destination for sustainable travelers. It’s also a country that is working hard to make sure that all of its delicate biosystems stay intact. With plenty of sustainable organizations invested in Australia’s future (especially after the bushfires), you’re investing your tourism dollars into a place that wants to preserve its heritage.
Finland’s current tourism plan pushes its operating tourism institutions to honor local culture, leave a minimum ecological footprint, and make a positive impact on its economy, nature, and society. This is done by implementing regulations involving local food sources, ethical shopping, sustainable buildings, and developing partnerships with environmental organizations. Another small, but important way Finns are looking to be sustainable is through heating almost the whole city from geothermal resources.
While many people might be familiar with Costa Rica as an ecotourism destination, its neighboring country is catching on to the trend as well. Sandwiched in the middle ofCentral America, Nicaragua is a newly-considered hotspot for biodiversity and its environment includes marine Atlantic areas, rainforests, dry plains along the Pacific Coast, mountains, and volcanoes. For outdoor lovers looking to have an experience off the beaten path, Nicaragua provides a great alternative to some of the more popular Central American countries.
Bhutan brings sustainability to a whole new level. As the world’s only carbon-neutral country, all tourists are required to pay a tax to offset the resources they use while there. Bhutan is also known for a number of other unique characteristics, such as measuring the success of their country’s GDP by the happiness level of its citizens. While it can be a bit pricey to go, you also have the added relief of knowing that your destination is doing everything it can to preserve its environment.
Chile is a bit of a newcomer to the sustainable tourism scene, but it is making rapid changes toward offering an amazing destination with very little environmental impact. As the main site of Patagonia, it’s no wonder that the Chilean government recognizes the need for taking care of its national parks. Eco-friendly hotels and tour organizations are popping up everywhere, giving travelers the necessary tools to enjoy the country while treating it properly.
If any country is into recycling and preserving its environment, it’s Germany. Public transportation, walking, and biking are the preferred modes of transportation, and the large number of national parks make it an outdoor-lover’s paradise. While a few attempts to reintroduce native species eliminated by hunting have failed, Germany is constantly looking to correct much of the damage caused to its natural areas during World War II.
While many look to nature as the main beneficiary of sustainable tourism, local people can thrive from it too. New jobs have been created as Colombia’s tourism industry continues to boom, and eco-friendly lodging, tours, and businesses have been created to accommodate the number of people coming in. The country continues to look ahead to the future where its economy grows while still managing to preserve natural resources for the future.
Which sustainable-minded countries would you recommend to travelers in 2020?
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