23 Mar 2017

Sustainable tourism. What is it really about?

Sustainable tourism. What is it really about?

Tourism in total freedom makes an important business model for the overall economic infrastructure of many areas, particularly in Italy, where small towns with great cultural heritage or wonderful natural landscapes are often difficult to reach. A camper van can get to these destinations, thus acting on a basic principle of sustainable tourism: not just respecting the host environment, but also bringing benefits to it.

According to the WTO (World Tourism Organization), sustainable tourism can be defined as the form of tourism that ‘satisfies the needs of both travellers and host regions, while protecting and improving their opportunities for the future”. In other words, it is a responsible tourism, supporting travellers and territories, a ‘tourism in natural areas that must contribute to the protection of nature and to the well being of local populations’.

The core factor of sustainable tourism is therefore the recognition that the specific host places and cultures need to directly benefit from it, also in economic terms. The concepts of mobility, outdoor life, interaction, and the characteristics of flexibility and adaptability, explain why camper holidays belong to a developing model where tourism is an important element of the overall economic infrastructure of many areas. In Italy in particular, there are many small towns with great cultural heritage and natural landscapes that are not usually touched by the standard tourist formats.

With the camper van, these destinations can be enjoyed, while experiencing a key principle of sustainable tourism: greater respect for the environment and real benefits for the safeguard and development of people and places. It is not just about holidays, but also about practices that:
• Respect the environment
• Are ethical and virtuous, hence not exploiting an area, culture or population
• Are economically sustainable for the host population
• Display social and cultural curiosity. The entire journey will be characterized by respect for the hosting population.

Modes of transport
Travelling by air seems to be the only choice when travelling long distance or across the ocean. However, when planning a holiday, shorter distances can be considered and also low impact, alternative transport: bicycles, public transport, trains or camper vans. Travelling by camper, for example, means choosing a holiday in close contact with nature, but it also means looking after the environment: a holiday on a Fiat Ducato based camper van can reduce emissions up to 52% compared to a traditional holiday*.

Local culture and economy
The ideal tourist should prefer places and services that use local staff and should, in general, spend their money at local businesses, so that the local economy improves and real opportunities are given. Also, tourists are not meant to be detached spectators who travel to get the latest fashion fad, but rather they should immerse in the local culture and accept its differences, in a constructive dialogue. Knowing about local customs, history, cuisine and -why not- trying to speak a different language, are great starting points.

Many tourist facilities (camping sites, parks, mountain communities…) work to improve natural areas and protect local habitats and biodiversity. Today, it is better to be a conscious traveller, preferring to patronize those venues that are eco-friendly or have environmental protection plans.

Camper holiday makers, hence, are able to travel consciously and thus actively participate in local conservation. But there is more: tourism in total freedom also generates a state of balance and wellness for the traveller, who thus acquires a real sustainable mindset that can be applied to other areas of his or her daily life.

* Source: “Mobile Dwelling Units”, a research by Prof. Paolo Fiamma (Università di Pisa) 2015.

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