How to Become an Eco-Friendly Destination
It is true that travelers are more conscious of the impact tourism has on the environment and local communities they visit. For this reason, many are choosing to spend their next vacations in an eco-friendly destination.
Aware of this change in the traveler’s behavior, destination managers are investing in green initiatives in order to attract eco-conscious travelers. The result is positive for many cities that have embraced this trend.
In this article, you will learn how to become an eco-friendly destination based on the experience of successful sustainable destinations around the world.
Eco-friendly destination, what is that?
An eco-friendly destination is a touristic destination that values and promotes responsible tourism. These municipalities invest in the protection of the local community, ecosystem, wildlife and cultural resources in order to reduce the bad impacts of tourism on visitors and locals.
The top green destinations in the world have something in common, they have a governing body that manages sustainability; they have shown commitment to protecting natural resources, people and heritage; they have reduced energy consumption; among other initiatives.
Why invest in sustainable tourism?
According to Booking.com research released before the pandemic, 87% of global travelers had the desire to travel sustainably, and nearly four in 10 confirmed that they often or always manage to do so.
After the pandemic, another report was released by Booking.com and 61% of respondents stated that the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future.
Being an eco-friendly destination has many advantages, attracting eco-conscious travelers is just one of them. Other advantages are:
- A reduction in the tourism leakage
- The creation of job positions and new opportunities for locals to work in tourism
- Making the local community more open to visitors
- The construction of new and modern infrastructure
- An increase in the tourism revenue
- An increase in the length of stay for travelers
Are you convinced that sustainability is the future of tourism? Great, now let’s take a look at what top eco-friendly destinations have done to earn this title.
How to become an eco-friendly destination?
In order to balance tourism growth with local and environmental needs, the first thing destination leaders need to do is to create a strategic plan.
This plan should consider tourism’s long-term environmental and human impacts on your destination, and detail the necessary actions to reach sustainable development.
To help you think of initiatives that suit your local tourism reality, learn more about two destinations and the steps they are taking in order to mitigate the bad impacts of tourism and become sustainable.
The case of Valencia
The city has been investing in sustainability since 2016. Since then, the municipality has implemented many projects in order to become eco-friendly and reach the status of a sustainable destination. And they are already seeing the result of their efforts, in 2022 the city was named the European Capital of Smart Tourism.
Part of their success is due to the construction of an extensive network of bike lanes, this way visitors can discover the city using bikes and electrical scooters instead of cars.
Another initiative their city council has implemented is the organization of guided tours aimed at raising awareness about climate change, explaining concepts like the circular economy and promoting local businesses.
Also, the city aims to be the first worldwide to verify and certify its carbon footprint from tourist activity. Its goal is to become an emission-neutral destination by 2025.
Their action plan to reach this ambitious goal is:
- Calculate the carbon footprint of the destination and its actors
- Implement a digital management system to follow up on the evolution of the carbon footprint and its reduction
- Develop compensation projects in the territory.
No doubt Valencia is one of the best examples of a successful eco-friendly destination that others should get inspired by.
The case of Ljubljana
Ljubljana, the European Green Capital of 2016, has a sustainable strategy at the core of its tourism development plan. Its goal is to become an attractive, green, environmentally friendly destination distinguished by a high quality of life both for citizens and for visitors to the city.
To make sure they are on the right track, they regularly monitor key sustainability indicators, which cover the field of environment, economy, society, culture, tourism and human rights at the destination.
Like Valencia, the city has invested in alternative means of transportation for tourists, which includes the implementation of over 1600 bicycle docking stations. Also, the city center has been traffic-free since 2008.
In order to stimulate the local economy, Ljubljana has a project named Green Supply Chains, in which their tourism board encourages the use of locally produced food in hotels and restaurants.
To fight back overtourism, tourist attractions were implemented around the historical center and other locations in the Ljubljana region. This way, tourist flows are spread over a larger area. Also, the city promotes cultural events all year long in order to deseasonalize tourism and relieve the pressure on tourist infrastructure.
As a recognition of their efforts, the city has obtained as many as 4 green certificates and is constantly improving to deliver a better and more sustainable tourism experience to their visitors.
Actions destination managers can take to promote sustainability
Based on the experience of Valencia and Ljubljana and other eco-friendly destinations, below you can find a list of green initiatives to promote sustainable tourism in your destination.
- Increasing the green and preserved areas
- Measuring the destination’s carbon footprint and setting a date to become carbon neutral
- Build bicycle paths, especially near touristic areas
- Creating traffic-free zones
- Developing sustainable-energy projects
- Promoting events throughout the year in order to deseasonalize tourism
- Implementing a visiting fee in order to finance sustainable initiatives
20 eco-friendly destinations to get inspired by
Late last year Forbes released a list of the 20 European Cities Ranked Best Green Capitals 2022. All of them are making efforts to tackle the climate crisis and assume the lead in environmental action.
We recommend you to visit their official channels to learn more about the actions these destinations are taking to promote sustainable tourism.
Check out below the top 20 European sustainable destinations of 2020 according to Forbes:
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Helsinki, Finland
- Lahti, Finland
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Oslo, Norway
- Nijmegen, The Netherlands
- Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Bern, Switzerland
- Grenoble, France
- Tallinn, Estonia
- Berlin, Germany
- Budapest, Hungary
- Vienna, Austria
- Madrid, Spain
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Brussels, Belgium
- Paris, France
- London, Great Britain
- Moscow, Russia
Becoming an eco-friendly destination has many benefits, for visitors and locals. Furthermore, investing in the sustainable development of tourism will be a must if your destination aims to stay competitive in a near future.
In this article we have presented the initiatives taken by two green cities in Europe, Valencia and Ljubljana, to inspire destination managers and leaders to plan tourism in a more sustainable way.
If you are managing tourism at your destination, we invite you to learn more about SmartTourism and how we assist traditional tourist destinations transition into destinations of the future. Check out our website and contact us for more information.