With more than 1 billion people traveling internationally every year, we have increasing access to experiences and education that are helping inform us of the importance of sustainability in every part of our lives and world. At the same time, with poverty, social challenges and ecological degradation continuing to grow, it is more important than ever to continue to innovatively join in the effort of creating solutions. Tourism, especially sustainable tourism, has the power and responsibility to be a major player in this important process. Nearly one in ten jobs around the globe can be traced to the tourism sector, which can benefit both travelers and those living in destination areas. As a catalyst of change in every realm of business it corresponds with, more responsible and sustainable tourism can deliver positive contributions to our global human family.
The United Nations named 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in recognition of the tremendous potential the tourism industry has to contribute to economic development, foster mutual understanding and intercultural dialogue, and support ecological conservation. The United Nations World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “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”. With an assortment of interacting businesses involved in tourism, including planning, transportation, lodging, dining, and scores of different kinds of activities taking place in the field, sustainable tourism can be a complex idea to wrap our heads around. At Global Basecamps, our business model is founded on using sustainable tourism to guide every step of our process of creating customized travel experiences that bring together diverse destinations and cultures, unique lodging and a spirit of adventure to create personal, memorable journeys.
Many types of tourism make up the vast and diverse tourism sector, and throughout much of the industry a movement is underway to make them more sustainable. However, some varieties are less compatible than others with the idea of sustainable tourism, and theories of what “sustainability” means in regard to tourism continue to evolve as well. Ecotourism is one well established concept that has been around for decades, and has come to represent a number of more specific classes of tourism including wildlife tourism, nature tourism and cultural tourism, to name a few. It remains a commonly used term for good practice from an environmental perspective between travelers, tourism operators, and destinations. The more holistic sustainable tourism concept describes a process of continuous improvement on the local, regional and global positive impacts of numerous types of tourism, such as adventure tourism, culinary tourism, heritage tourism, and many others. There are certain parts of mass tourism, however, that are more difficult to realign with the values of sustainable tourism, including massive cruise ships, giant chain hotels and restaurants, bus tours and walled off, all-inclusive resorts. The scale and nature of these operations are at times described as “overtourism”, bringing in so many people that they overwhelm the destination’s ability to host them. They can offer a shallow and less authentic experience to travelers and create resentment within the host community, offering a narrow spectrum of local jobs that fail to acknowledge the economic conditions, social uniqueness and environmental sensitivity of the area.
When tourism operators choose to work with smaller, more locally-run lodging, dining and activity operators, many benefits can result. Higher quality, more community-oriented jobs are created, better reflecting the character and motivations of the local people. More tourism-generated revenues stay in the community, as opposed to the “economic leakage” that occurs when profits go to foreign-owned business owners instead of being retained within the settings where the tourism is taking place. With rural communities frequently suffering from a shortage of jobs, sustainable tourism grows and diversifies their economy. As these businesses grow, overall economic development can take place that builds community financial vitality and resilience. Individuals and families can improve their lives in ways that poverty too often keeps out of reach, such as access to education, health care, and other basic necessities.
Global Basecamps has invested many years in building personal relationships with partner operators around the world that share our values, and we work together to have only positive impacts within our destination communities. Most regions that host our tours are relatively traditional and conservative societies compared to those more urbanized areas of Europe, North America and other regions of the world where most international travelers hail from, and sustainable tourism can facilitate travelers and hosts alike in engaging in enriching cross-cultural interactions. When we travel and seek connection with others with sensitivity and genuine curiosity about their ways of life, which is best done with the help of the kind of local interpretive guides we work with, we are helping preserve and advocate for these beautiful cultures. We as a business, regularly supports a variety of global initiatives that serve the people and areas our tours visit, as well as in and around our local community of Encinitas on the Southern California Coast.
Because tourism as a whole does have an environmental impact, Global Basecamps seeks to bring innovative solutions to the table throughout our approach to planning and conducting our tours. Built upon our foundation of local relationships, we contribute to projects focusing on environmental restoration, wildlife protection, clean drinking water, reducing pollution and other objectives, often accomplishing several of these objectives at once. Our clients have the opportunity to explore and learn about the natural splendor of the destinations we serve while helping to protect them, and both they and our operators grow in their visions to live more sustainable lifestyles.
Ensuring the quality of what we do has made it possible for us to continue to thrive, as a company and in partnership with our destination operators, and provide our clients with life-changing travel experiences. We have created an organization that provides for many livelihoods through collaboration with businesses and initiatives around the world, while also providing opportunities for cross cultural education and environmental conservation. Working towards sustainable tourism is a challenge Global Basecamps is dedicated to, and we continue to hone our craft of providing the perfect travel experience. We invite you to join us for your next adventure!