How can Tour Operators Promote Sustainable Tourism


March 24, 2022

5 min read
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Ways to Promote Sustainable Tourism 🌱

Sustainable and eco-friendly products are in high demand as travellers around the world are now more conscious about the choices they make.

Developing sustainable business practices helps you stand out from the competition and attract travellers who want to reduce their carbon footprint. While promoting sustainable tourism keeps your customer happy and satisfied, it will also contribute to the long-term survival of the tourism industry.

If you are wondering where to start, here are a few tips for integrating more eco-friendly practices in your tour operations.

Reduce Plastic Use 

The simple and easiest first step toward sustainability is to eliminate the unnecessary use of single-use items and encourage the use of renewable and recyclable alternatives.

The most prominent examples of single-use items are plastic water bottles and straws. 

Yes, we hear you. Plastic bottles are easy to carry around, and sealed bottles assure guests that the water is clean. 

But, throwaway plastic items have a devastating effect on our environment. Most often, they end up in a lake or on the roadside. (Here is not-so-fun-fact: if we continue our plastic usage, there could be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050!)

Let your guests carry their reusable water bottles. Provide them with refill stations or water fountains at different points of the tour. Use pre-trip communications emails to inform them about bringing a reusable water bottle.

A traveller using reusable water bottle as part of promoting sustainable tourism

Focus on using sustainable materials and products. Here are the other reusable items that you can introduce:

🟢 Use reusable silverware, plates, napkins, and food storage containers.

🟢 Use reusable umbrellas and rain gear instead of disposable ponchos/umbrellas.

🟢 Replace plastic garbage bags with biodegradable garbage bags.

🟢 Prefer tags made of recycled material to plastic luggage tags.

Replacing plastic items also lowers unnecessary costs as you don’t have to repurchase stocks often. However, remember that the aim here is to reduce waste. Your attempts to remove plastic shouldn’t create other waste in different forms.

If you want to dive deep into plastic-free policies, here is a helpful resource from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), PLASTIC FREE TOOLKIT FOR TOUR OPERATORS.

Minimize Negative Impacts on the environment

Integrate these practices to keep your operations environment-friendly and promote sustainable tourism.

🟢  In walking tours, evaluate tour routes to avoid overcrowded or environmentally protected areas.

🟢 Keep the size of the tour group small to lessen stress on the environment. 

🟢 Encourage your guests to recycle or dispose of trash properly and not litter. Keep signboards and facilities to maintain the surroundings clean. 

🟢 Provide guests with guidelines on avoiding negative impacts while visiting environmentally sensitive areas.

🟢 Do you offer gift packs for clients? Ensure the packaging and gifts are eco-friendly.

🟢 Adopt recycling and composting into your daily operations.

🟢 Promote eco-friendly public transportation instead of private car services.

🟢 Support and motivate your vendors to integrate sustainability; Make sustainability principles as selection criteria of suppliers/vendors.

🟢 If you operate experiences that rely on fossil fuels, think creatively, and in the long term about how you can be more sustainable. Some destinations are considering banning or heavily taxing fossil fuel-burning vehicles, especially in over-touristed areas.

Remember, you are an expert on your destination. Help your customers maximize their sustainable practices by sharing the tips and tricks that you know about your area. 

For more insights into sustainable tourism practices, visit The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). GSTC establishes and manages global standards for sustainable travel and tourism, known as the GSTC Criteria. Tour operators can get certified for their highest environmental and social sustainability standards.

Go Paperless

A tour operator using Zaui online booking system to electronically check in guests to promote sustainable tourism.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

Limit paper usage to reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to sustainability. Minimizing paper use demonstrates your company’s commitment to the environment and your eagerness to make a difference.

Bring down the number of paper brochures you produce every season; this could be a good marketing move as well because most of your future customers are online.

Eliminating pesky paper receipts and introducing digital receipts is now easier than ever. Switch to electronic check-ins. They are faster and more cost-effective too. 

Break the paper waiver habit and move to digital waivers. Imagine the number of paper waivers that go into your storage after the peak season. It’s not just papers; we should also factor in printers, ink cartridges, and ink that go into the paper waivers.

Adopting digital waivers could decrease the unnecessary ecological damage caused by the accumulation of paper. Send your guests digital waivers along with the booking confirmation email. 

In case they forget to return the signed waivers, you can always send a reminder, or guests can complete the waiver during check-ins on a tablet. Or create a custom QR code to your waiver that guests can scan using their smartphone and sign right on their device. No paper involved!

Give Back to the Community

An image representing tour operators woeking together to promote sustainable tourism

Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and your local community are constantly innovating to embrace sustainability. Join hands with them to address and build awareness around sustainability issues affecting your destination.  

Support local projects to promote sustainable tourism. Take initiatives in cleaning up local destinations that have been polluted. Financially contribute to eco-friendly social projects and the conservation of local ecosystems.

Encourage your guests to purchase local products to support the local community. Share information on local culture and eco-friendly travel tips with them. 

Promote souvenirs from the local artists or local production units. Always try to include local businesses and community members in your supply chain. Remember, the less food and goods have to travel to get to you or your customers, the less impact they have on the environment.

Wrapping Up

Everyone wants to reduce their impact on the planet and be more environmentally responsible. You can no longer ignore the calls for sustainable business practices. 

Create an environmental policy, conveying your company’s commitment to a healthier planet. As you put your plan into action, educate your staff and train them. 

Also, communicate with your guests about your commitment and measures you have taken to promote sustainable tourism. Use your different communication channels for advertising the message. 

Guests will appreciate your policies supporting eco-friendly tourism more than you expected, and your team will feel proud for bringing in positive change by promoting a plastic-free, sustainable travel style that can thrive for generations.

Your willingness to make a difference with sustainable practices adds value to your brand. It can be a potential marketing tool that attracts environmentally-conscious guests and distinguishes you from your competitors. And don’t forget, becoming environment-friendly can decrease costs in the long run and helps keep your business sustainable for the future.

In short, sustainable practices give you satisfied guests, a healthier planet and a solid bottom line.

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