Before we can begin to understand how sustainable tourism is impacting the travel industry, one of the things that we have to understand is what is sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism is a positive phenomenon that has been going on for some time, but in recent years it has been gaining more traction with millennials. The idea behind sustainable tourism is that the travel industry should be part of helping build up the local communities, be part of the culture, and support the people that the industry comes in contact with, instead of merely descending on them.

Travel and the tourist industry can work together so that sustainable tourism can benefit multiple ways to the places that tourists go to, instead of merely taking from them for capitalistic reasons. It allows tourists and the tourism industry to be able to give back to the very communities that they visit. It is this idea of giving something back on a trip that has become very appealing to a new generation of sustainable tourists.


The new generation of sustainable tourists is being led by the millennials. Millennials are far more likely than any other tourist demographic to be interested in giving back to the areas they go to. A lot of this comes from a strong sense of civic responsibility, the desire to help other people live better lives, and a desire to have a meaningful impact. For many millennials, tourism is simply not a way to get away from life – it is a way to embrace life. It is a way to add to the quality of their life and for many of them, that quality of life can be enhanced dramatically by helping other less fortunate people or by making a difference in an area of the world.

To millennials, traveling is a chance for them to grow as people, a concept called transformational travel. This is truly a chance for them to feel like they’re making a difference in the world. So to a millennial, sustainable tourism is one of the most attractive types on the market today. Sustainable tourism provides a way for them to be able to experience enriching content as well as allowing them to do things that they believe will have a long-term positive impact wherever they have gone. All of this binds together to help provide that enriching cultural experience as well.


Ecotourism is a phenomenon that is growing worldwide in acceptance and in proliferation. The idea behind ecotourism is that tourists will travel to more remote locations, especially areas that are not on the beaten path, to enjoy nature in a more holistic way. Different types of ecotourism could include things like a trek through the jungle, going to a locally known cavern system that other tourists don’t know about, or going on hikes to visit waterfalls, pristine locations, or more remote areas of national parks. It is a chance for them to be able to see it undisturbed and to witness the natural environment as they believe it was always intended to be, without having been affected by people. This type of tourism also ranks very low as far as having a carbon footprint, because so many eco-tourists hike into their locations instead of taking vehicles.


According to travel journals, 1.6 million tourists did voluntourism last year, and it brought in over two billion dollars to the tourism and travel industry. With so much money at stake and voluntourism growing by leaps and bounds it’s tempting to jump in, but first, we need to know what voluntourism is. Voluntourism appeals to the desires of the millennial generation and others to have transformational travel: they engage in tourism while doing meaningful work as volunteers. It can be something as simple as teaching English or a foreign language, or it can also take the shape of doing ecological work like helping a local farmer to plant his crops. These things play a multi-faceted role in the worldwide tourism and travel industry: one is that they show millennials are changing from spending their money on things to spending their money on experiences. To have more real connections with people is the kind of social impact travel that makes transformational travel possible and desirable for millennials, allowing them to both have fun and make a difference.

Pro-poor tourism

Pro-poor tourism is an outgrowth of sustainable tourism in the travel industry. Pro-poor tourism is the kind of tourism where instead of people going on vacation, they seek instead to go to areas of the world that are most in need of assistance, like poverty-stricken areas where people are in need of food, medicine, or other necessities of life as part of a cultural enrichment experience in their transformational travel. The pro-poor tourism is designed to positively impact the most destitute and needy by bringing in tourist dollars as well as skill and experience to those areas in the world most in need.

Impact of sustainable tourism on the travel industry

The importance of sustainable tourism in the travel industry cannot be understated. The importance of both the money and the manpower that millennials and others bring to bear on many different social issues is only going to continue to grow as the years go on. With two billion dollars already going into the sustainable tourism industry, it is likely to become one of the single hottest trends for the millennial vacationer. Vacations with meaning are leading to a greater desire for social impact travel.

Forecasts of the importance of sustainable tourism

What is the future and importance of sustainable tourism? It is simply this: it is a valuable economic tool for people in the travel industry to understand that this is the way of the future. More and more young people are designing these types of trips, so learning how to cater trips that involve social impact travel will be critical to maintaining and fulfilling the desires of the young traveling millennial generation.


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