Sustainable Tourism is the Untamed Frontier of Luxury Travel
The term “sustainable” is bandied so frequently around in tourism circles, that it is easy to connection with the real meaning behind the sustainability movement. The word is used in so many different ways, from a throw-away synonym for “environmentally-friendly”, to using in a hole in the ground for a bathroom, or sleuthing through a phrase book to learn “soy milk” in Portuguese. Sustainability doesn’t mean sacrificing the pleasures that make travel special, and it certainly doesn’t fly in direct opposition to the idea of luxury travel.
Sustainability in travel is about keeping destinations and communities thriving and beautiful for future generations. It is an understanding that you are a small part in the long story of a place or a people, and that should be preserved long after you are gone.It is about rewarding those businesses who understand the fragility of the intrinsic attraction of the destination and do everything in their power to protect that, channelling the demand itself toward preservation.
Take Machu Picchu, for example. In the century since its “rediscovery”, the citadel has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and opened up to tourists from all over the world. But very quickly up to 5,000 tourists a day were visiting an archaeological site that was only designed to house a few hundred Incan aristocrats. In 2017, the Peruvian government implemented restrictions to limit the number of visiting tourists and enforced a framework to ensure that Machu Picchu will exist for centuries to come. At the core of sustainable travel is a well measured, balanced approach to secure preservation, longevity, the retention of authenticity and ensure benefits flow back to the local community.
Sustainable doesn’t have to mean basic. Down the mountain from Machu Picchu, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is an example of sustainable tourism at its most luxurious. The hotel is built into the mountainous “cloud forest”, and is modelled after ancient Incan villages. The spa specialises in traditional health and wellness treatments, and the restaurant serves outstanding Peruvian specialties created with locally-sourced, organic ingredients. Water is recycled and cleaned before it is let back into the river system, and every soap, detergent and shampoo is made from local natural ingredients. Guests can take nature walks with local guides who proudly exhibit the wild beauty of Peru’s rainforest.
While that may not sound particularly ground-breaking, these small changes minimise the hotel’s footprint on the surrounding environment, maximise its investment in the local community. It is all presented in a unique and luxurious way.
Increasingly, travellers are demanding sustainable environments on their holidays, and are willing to pay more for these. Today’s luxury holiday experiences simply must be created through a sustainability lense. Travellers want to sleep easy in the knowledge that their holiday money is working to help the locals and to preserve the very cultures and environments that have attracted them in the first place, for many generations to come.