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What is fair tourism?

Fair tourism or sustainable tourism can be defined as tourism that maximizes the positive impacts of tourism and minimizes the negative ones. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) 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”. Sustainable tourism, then, is closely connected to a more general concept, sustainable development. According to UNWTO, tourism has a great potential to participate in promoting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Sustainable tourism often focuses on one of three main areas of interest: economic, socio-cultural, or environmental. Economic sustainability can refer to the destination community benefiting from tourism financially. This is not a given, as profits often leak away from the destination, especially if the tourism supply of a destination is too dependent on big, international corporations whose headquarters are located far away from the actual destination. While big hotels can provide employment to many locals, small, locally-owned businesses have more potential to distribute profits and reduce poverty in the community.

Tourism is socio-culturally sustainable when the relationship between tourists and the host community is built on mutual respect and tourism does not take advantage of the local population or harm its culture. Sustainable tourism aims to protect the local culture against cultural commercialization: a process where local heritage and culture are modified to meet the tourists’ expectations. Socially sustainable tourism also emphasizes the role of the local population as business owners, decision makers, and tourism planners.

Environmentally sustainable tourism recognizes the importance of the environment as a tourist attraction while ensuring the protection of local natural resources. Sometimes referred to as ecotourism, environmentally sustainable tourism also attempts to educate tourists about environmental issues while traveling to and within a destination. The most essential issues in ecotourism are minimizing waste production, improving waste management, and using energy as efficiently as possible in all travel-related activities, including accommodation.

During the last few years many have talked about responsible tourism. According to the 2002 Cape Town Declaration, the purpose of responsible tourism is to make destinations better places to live and visit, precisely in this order. The wellbeing of locals should always be the priority. From the travelers point of view, responsible tourism means being aware of your own responsibility and making responsible choices when traveling.

Travel has changed a lot since the first Cape Town Declaration in 2002 or since the Fair Tourism Association was established in 2003. Tourism has become more responsible, sustainable development is a main part of many tourism strategies and many travelers have learned to make responsible choices. Despite these major steps forward, there is still a long way to go.

Alongside sustainable and responsible tourism, several other terms and phenomena have risen. The focus has switched from minimizing the negative impact to maximizing the positive impact, creating something new, and even a whole new way of thinking about travel and tourism has evolved. One of these new phenomena is regenerative tourism. Regenerative tourismchanges people, travel destinations, local communities and society. From a travelers point of view regenerative tourism can shortly be defined as meaning travel, where the traveler leaves the destination better than before the visit.

In 2020 the Coronavirus pandemic Covid-19 halted global travel almost entirely. The effects of the pandemic on the tourism industry has been devastating. On the other hand, it has given us the opportunity to stop and think about what kind of travel we want to promote after the pandemic. According to UNWTO, the aim is to emerge stronger and more sustainable from the COVID-19 crisis. The Fair Tourism Association also strongly believes in a fair and sustainable future within tourism. Reaching sustainability goals requires contributions from, and the collaboration of travel businesses, local governments, and non-profit organizations. Making tourism sustainable is an on-going process that requires constant evaluation of the impacts of tourism.