principles of Sustainable Tourism
According to the UN World Tourism Organization, the term sustainable tourism can be defined 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”. Global development of sustainable tourism is closely connected to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its heart, which consists of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015.
All members of the UNESCO Global Geoparks network give their contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. This also applies to Saimaa Geopark that is currently in the application process to obtain the European Geopark Network membership. Please see further information on the UNESCO Global Geoparks’ actions and commitments to support the SDGs.
The definition of responsible tourism is based on the same principles as sustainable tourism, yet, it is not the exact same thing. Sustainability is a goal that can be achieved only by people taking responsibility together with each other. Responsible tourism is about taking responsibility and acting to make tourism sustainable.
The global travel market has adopted the Cape Town Declaration definition of responsible tourism which encourages the industry to take responsibility for making tourism more sustainable and demonstrate their responsibility.
A responsible tourist can make a difference with their choices e.g. by finding out about the destination and different options already before the trip. Responsible service providers can make the decision-making easier by offering information and guidance.
A graduate of tourism studies programme, Anna Tiippana, surveyed company owners’ thoughts on responsible tourism in Saimaa Geopark area in her thesis. According to the results, the majority of entrepreneurs in tourism are willing to invest in responsibility in the future. When communicating about responsibility, the companies want to concretise the topic and emphasise the values behind responsible actions. The aim is to develop less consuming services, prolong the visitors’ stay in the destination, and use renewable natural resources when possible.
When it comes to regional development of tourism, Saimaa Geopark aims to obtain the role of sustainable tourism expert, coordinating and collecting together different actors of the region.
When moving to circular economy, consumption is no longer based on mass-production of more and more goods, and neither on owning things. Instead, it is based on using services – sharing, renting and recycling. Materials are not destroyed at the end of their useful life, but used to make new products over and over again. Circular economy means that the production and consumption chains work efficiently and the amount of waste is reduced to the minimum. The change towards a circular economy is necessary in order to protect our limited natural resources and to ensure sustainable development.
Visitors can explore Saimaa Geopark and its sites by using low-carbon means of transportation, enjoying immaterial experiences in the beautiful natural surroundings, and finding rental services for vehicles and equipment. Saimaa Geopark also encourages and advises visitors to leave the environment litter-free. The region’s active NGOs take care of the maintenance of toilets and rubbish bins in the harbours and in campsites. This enables geopark users to do boating, hiking and other outdoor activities in clean nature and in a sustainable and responsible way.