Sustainable tourism: what is special about it?

Sustainable tourism is flying high. But what does it actually involve? You will most certainly have already heard of sustainable tourism. Perhaps you even want to try it out. We can but encourage you to do so! Indeed, given the climate change we are experiencing, it is important to step away from our usual habits.  We can do this in our everyday activities, but also by considering some more occasional activities such as travelling.

What is sustainable tourism?

It is a way of travelling whilst adhering to the same principles as sustainable development. It is built on three fundamental cornerstones:
  • Environmental considerations: care is taken to preserve natural resources and biodiversity as far as possible; particularly regarding the choice of means of transport.
  • Preservation of and respect for the culture of others: highlighting conservation of sociocultural authenticity and traditions, in addition to inter-cultural tolerance.
  • Fair practices: one of the key issues in sustainable tourism is ensuring that all players involved in a tourist activity are socio-economically fulfilled, in an ecologically responsible way. In real terms, this means creating stable jobs or distributing profits adequately.
deux personnes voyagent en vélo de gare en gare
WBT - Hike UPRailtrip.Travel-Gare de Marche-les-Dames
Vue sur la citadelle de Namur avec la Meuse

What is sustainable tourism?

Firstly, we should state that tourism causes approximately 8% of mankind’s total greenhouse gas emissions, three quarters of which comes from transport alone. In some very popular areas, tourism also results in high consumption of natural resources such as water, energy or food. Looking at France for example, in certain over-visited locations annual water use is 211% above the national average, with annual energy consumption 287% and waste production 27% above the same benchmark. We also observe inflation of housing and food prices caused by the increasing number of tourists and the decline of local culture and heritage due to globalisation. (Source) If we truly want to live sustainably, we need to act in as many ways as possible to preserve nature, culture and heritage.

So, how can you travel more sustainably?

There are several things you can do to ensure you travel in a way that is less harmful to planet Earth. Here are a few examples that will help you preserve the environment and foster sustainable development:
  • Choose transport means with a smaller pollution footprint: for example avoid air travel and prioritise train journeys where possible.
  • Participate in sustainable development projects in the areas you visit.
  • If you opt for air travel, choose a direct flight, because take-offs and landings require large quantities of fuel.
  • Make longer trips instead of short city-trips of a few days in order to avoid multiple journeys.
  • Stay with a local or in accommodation belonging to locals to help their business activity prosper in the long-term, thereby participating in local growth.
  • Buy local products at a fair price.
  Do you need a helping hand to organise your trips? You should know there are organisations that specialise in sustainable tourism, don’t hesitate to contact them for information. Responsible tourism, equitable tourism, slow tourism or fair trade / ethical tourism are all different types of tourism you can opt for under a sustainable approach. As the tourist information centre for the Namur-Dinant region, we will soon be releasing an article brimming with ideas on how to practise slow tourism in the Explore Meuse region. A wonderful opportunity for you to discover the landscapes and craftspeople at the gateway to the Belgian Ardennes.
Deux personnes sont accueillies dans une chambre d'hôte
Voyager en vélo sur le Ravel de la Molignée
WBT - Pierre Pauquay-Vélo de voyage - Ravel Molignée
Magasin du producteur au consommateur - produits bio - Paysans - Artisans
(c)Paysans - Artisans
In Belgium, Hike Up, a tourism promotion agency is invested in sustainable tourism and the development of ethical projects and trips. Every year, the team organises “Le Relais des Voyageurs”, a festival on alternative travel and slow tourism. A unique festival entirely dedicated to simple or itinerant travel, accessible to all. Le Relais des Voyageurs meets a growing demand, an increased awareness of ways of travelling that are slower, lighter, longer, more eco-friendly, more humane, more personal, etc. This exhibition contributes to the development of sustainable tourism, local tourism and micro-adventures.
Guide TAO Belgique, pour un voyage éthique et durable
Editions Viatao - Cédric Maillard
Voyage vélo et camping
Camping Villatoile
TAO GUIDE – Belgium, ethical and sustainable travel. By Cédric Maillaert. Discover 366 ethical and sustainable hot tips for all budgets: restaurants, accommodation, activities, volunteering, etc. and advice on how to visit and travel through Belgium sustainably and responsibly. Viatao, the publisher with commitment! Viatao has been publishing guides for sustainable tourism for 14 years. Go to to browse all their guides.