What is sustainable travel?
Sustainable travel means travelling in a way that ensures tourism can be maintained long-term without harming natural and cultural environments. Sustainable travel aims to minimise the negative impacts of tourism, with the intention of benefitting the area in which it takes place. It should not only protect the area but it should also enhance opportunity for the future.
Sustainable travel is about valuing the environment and looking after our natural resources.
Travellers need to be more aware of pollution levels caused by travel and how that affects the environment and local wildlife. They also need to be aware of how tourism affects local people, businesses and local cultures.
Sustainable tourism can be explained simply using these“pillars”:
Environmental Pillar: preserve the natural environment of the destination you’re visiting
Economic Pillar: support local businesses in the area
Social Pillar: support cultural projects in the area
The Environmental Pillar – The environmental pillar focuses on reducing negative impacts on the local environment and wildlife from travelling. This includes minimising your carbon footprint, especially from air travel, water usage, packaging and plastic waste, and not disturbing wildlife. As sustainable travellers, we can have a simple positive effect by carrying our own reusables – buy a reusable water bottle to travel with and ask for refills, a plastic box for take away food and a metal straw for drinks out. Use public boats and busses, share taxis. Take your rubbish home with you. Look for hotels and restaurants which recycle and are built from sustainable materials or use solar energy, do any of them have green accolades. You can also research responsible tour operators that pledge environmental responsibility, take part in beach clean ups and promote about the active role they take in preserving and maintaining their local environment.
The Economic Pillar – Traditionally, the economic pillar refers to businesses being profitable in order to be sustainable. However, when it comes to sustainable travel, we can apply the economic pillar to using our money to positively contribute to the local economy. As tourists, we can give our tourist pound to locally-run hotels, restaurants and tour guides to support the local economy. Search for hotels using booking websites such as booking. com, Agoda etc. but try to book with your favoured accommodation directly. Did you know that these big booking sites take a 15% commission from every hotel/ homestay that advertise? This 15% will not reach the country you are visiting, it goes straight into an offshore bank account and lines some big dog’s pockets.
The Social Pillar – The social pillar is about our impact on local people and communities. This includes supporting businesses that are run by, employ and support local people, as well as community tourism projects, NGOs, social enterprises and charities. Responsible travellers can look for opportunities to be involved in these types of projects and be aware of who businesses employ, whether they’re fairly paid and whether their work environment is safe. Being a responsible traveller is also about doing research into the place you will be visiting. Are there any cultural sensitivities? Here in Lombok, there is a large Muslim population, this means that you shouldn’t walk past a mosque or in the street wearing a bikini. Likewise, in Bali, you should cover your arms and legs when visiting a temple. Do any of the hotels or travel organisers you’re looking into work closely with the local community with the aim of ensuring the profits from tourism reaches them? When I was travelling I discovered some fantastic businesses that were working on some great initiatives with local people. From employing stigmatised individuals with disabilities and funding educational projects, to jewellery making workshops run by divorced and single mothers. When I spent my money within these businesses it made me feel great and also inspired me to develop the dream of today.
Doing our bit
Feel-Lombok was born from the dream of wanting to do something good for the local population. It encompasses tours operated by individuals and communities that share our passion for preserving the natural environment and doing the most we can do to minimise the effects of over tourism, with giving back and ensuring that the benefits of tourism reaches even the more remote areas. For example you will never be given bread by our any of our guides to feed the fish on any of our snorkelling trips – this is very damaging to the reef’s eco system and the fish themselves.
With our office newly opened we plan to host “have a go” workshops that you can sign up for, and are run by the local Gili Air community. There will be coconut oil production classes, coconut bracelet and bowl making, and simple cookery and up-cycling workshops.
Our English club, gives young locals from Lombok the opportunity to learn to speak English in a fun but organised environment. We bring tourists to visit, giving students the opportunity to practice what they have been learning in a real-life setting. We plan to also hold environmental workshops which teach students about the environment, how to dispose of rubbish properly, education into the repercussions of throwing it into the river (a big problem in many Asian countries), and also about how to make eco bricks. We hope that students will also partake in our Sunday morning Sengiggi beach clean-ups. Our long-term goal with English club is to help students find reliable employment within the tourism industry once they finish school. To do this will work with businesses who are able to offer our older students work experience opportunities.
Finally, we would like to work together with other tour companies and operators to share knowledge of sustainable tourism with the hope that we can work together to ensure that Lombok and the Gilis stay beautiful, plastic free, healthy and prosper positively.