What is Sustainable Tourism?



According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” This definition became widely used in the 90s as TIES worked to influence travel lodges and tours to adopt sustainable methodologies. Over the last few years however, the definition of ecotourism has been twisted and abused to fit an assortment of standards. To counteract this overuse, individual groups have developed terms like responsible tourism, ethical tourism, geotourism, and sustainable tourism. While each of these new factions has a different focus, the overarching goal is the same: to develop a tourism model that protects biodiversity, preserves culture and cultivates healthy local economies.

Now, with so many terms being used in the travel industry, it has become confusing for national and corporate entities to follow the same set of universal standards. “Sustainable tourism needs a definition that speaks to the market, includes the best ideas from the different schools of thought, and is representative of the last 20 years of work,” said Megan Epler Wood, founder of TIES and EplerWood International, a consulting firm dedicated to helping entities establish sustainable practices. With this goal of creating a universal definition, Megan adapted the term sustainable tourism and incorporated primary elements into one clear and simple sentence:

“Sustainable tourism creates a better place for people to live, work and visit by providing long-term economic benefits to local people, protecting the environment and biodiversity, and preserving the cultural heritage, traditional values and character of destinations worldwide.”

This beautiful term encompasses everything that we at Immersion Travel Magazine believe travel should be. Along with meeting our environmental, cultural and economic standards, every destination and travel venue featured in our pages reflects the standards set by this sustainable tourism definition.