Sustainable holidays: a mother and her son take a small break from wandering around Ljubljana.

Soft tourism: tips on how to have a sustainable holiday

What is a sustainable holiday? The aim of sustainable or "soft" tourism is not to destroy the natural environment or the local population at the holiday destination. Sustainable holidays do not have to be complicated or expensive - even small changes can make a big contribution to being more environmentally friendly. Below we will give you an insight into how you can implement the principles of sustainable tourism on your next trip - from choosing environmentally friendly means of transport to buying souvenirs.

Sustainable holidays: two cyclists enjoying the view of the Colosseum in Rome.

Sustainable holidays: sustainable modes of transport and outdoor activities

When travelling to a foreign country you want to explore and experience as much as possible and get the most out of your time there. It is therefore advisable to opt for more sustainable modes of transport not only when travelling, but also when travelling around the local area:

  • It is best to use public transport such as buses, trams or trains when travelling longer distances while at your holiday destination.

  • If you are a sporty person and you like to be flexible, you can also rent a bicycle at your holiday destination. This way you can get around emission-free during your sustainable holiday.

  • If you are looking to travel longer distances by bike, then it may be worth renting an e-bike.

Outdoor activities are a wonderful way to explore a new region and experience the outdoors in the local area. On holiday you can be flexible you could simply go for a stroll through the local area, or you could also on a long hike. When doing outdoor activities there are a couple of things that you need to be mindful of:

  • Engage in environmentally friendly sports activities: If you want to try water sports try canoeing or kayaking instead of water skiing.

  • Guided walks are recommended to avoid getting lost in a new area. You can also learn a lot from the experts about the natural environment and the local ecosystem.

  • Leave nature as you found it: do not pick any plants or remove any shells, stones, sand or similar and do not leave any rubbish behind.


It is best to avoid attractions with animals because in most cases animal welfare will not be taken into account by the provider. If you want to support regional animal welfare, consider donating to wildlife sanctuaries or national parks.

Eco-friendly holidays: saving water and energy

One of the most important elements of a sustainable holiday is to be respectful of your surroundings like you would back at home. In a hotel or a B&B you won't see the exact water and electricity bill and in holiday homes you usually only pay a flat rate for additional costs - nevertheless, it is advisable to use these resources sparingly to help reduce the environmental impact. You should therefore keep these tips in mind:

  • Try taking a shower instead of taking a daily bath. Try to keep your time in the shower to a minimum and when applying shower gel by turning off the shower.

  • Don’t leave the tap unnecessarily on especially when you’re brushing your teeth.

  • Use your towel longer than just one day, before you put it in the wash.

  • Try and use fans and air conditioners sparingly and turn them on only when you really need them. Remember to turn off the air conditioner before leaving the room or accommodation.

Additionally, it is recommended to check if your holiday destination has a water shortage. Local offers for tourists can often massively worsen these problems, as all-inclusive hotels, water parks or golf courses need a lot of water for the guests and visitors and to maintain the facilities. If this is the case, you should maybe try and look for a different holiday destination.  


If you have set yourself the goal of going on a sustainable holiday then maybe you could consider going on holiday somewhere in your own country or even in the local region. Exploring your own region not only opens up new perspectives, but it is a form of eco-friendly travel as it is more resource-efficient and stress-free.

Sustainable holidays: a woman drinking out of a stainless steel water bottle.

Environmentally friendly holidays: how to avoid making waste for on the go

Whilst on holiday excess rubbish can quickly mount up from the following item: small water bottles, pre-packaged snacks from the buffet, brochures and flyers and plastic bags for small souvenirs. With a few tips and tricks you can avoid producing unnecessary rubbish whilst on the go because there are a lot of other sustainable alternatives for the most common everyday disposable products:

  • Take a reusable glass or stainless-steel water bottle with you on holiday. In a lot of European countries tap water is safe to drink. Before going on holiday make sure to check the quality of the local tap water.

  • In case the tap water is not safe to drink it is best to buy water in big bottles or canisters and then fill up your reusable water bottle. This helps to avoid producing extra rubbish being made from numerous small plastic bottles.

  • Pack a couple of reusable shopping bags such as ones made from fabric to take with when going shopping. When buying souvenirs in a lot of countries they will tend to be put into plastic bags. As you will have your own reusable shopping bag with you can do without the plastic bag.

  • Due to bad habits many of us generally take a lot of cards, flyers, and brochures with us, which a lot of people won’t even use on holiday or even need. You can replace a lot of paper maps and city maps with digital travel guides and maps. This can help you to cut down on your paper rubbish.

Soft tourism: which souvenirs should you buy?

When looking to buy souvenirs you will end up in one of the many souvenir shops as most holiday destinations have a lot of souvenir shops. Even if you buy your souvenirs locally many of them are not produced locally nor are they made using sustainable materials. Below you will find a couple of tips on how to be more environmentally friendly when purchasing souvenirs:

  • It’s best to buy local handmade products. Ask the seller questions to find out more about how the souvenirs have been produced and what materials had been used in the production.

  • Think practically when buying souvenirs as practical objects are often better keepsakes or souvenirs than decorative items. Whether it’s hand-painted ceramic crockery or bowls made from FSC-certified wood – or handmade useful objects, these items will be more useful long term and they will remind you of your travels every time you use them.

  • Typical traditional culinary souvenirs for example oils, herbs or spices, dried or pickled fruit and vegetables, sweets or wine make great sustainable souvenirs.

  • Natural cosmetic products with active ingredients that are grown or produced in the local area are also a good option. Ideally, you should choose organic products and buy them from regional manufacturers.

Soft tourism: the economic and social factors of a sustainable holiday

Soft tourism does not focus solely on climate and environmental protection, but it also focuses on economic and social factors. This means, among other things that tourism brings economic benefits to the local population, and it has a positive impact on their society. At the same time, the local culture should not be lost or changed or negatively influenced by tourism. To make your holiday more sustainable you can follow the following hints and tips below:

  • Try and stay in family-run and managed hotels and small guesthouses. Smaller managed accommodations usually focus on supporting local culture and businesses. They often recommend local services or establishments such as tour guides and they also source their products from local businesses and employ members of staff who are from the local area.

  • Support local businesses. By doing so you will help support the local economy and you will have a more authentic experience. Try following this tip when buying souvenirs as well as when eating out. If you visit local restaurants instead of the big restaurant chains, you can also try typical local delicacies that can make your holiday a culinary highlight.

  • Be respectful of the local culture. It's best to find out about local habits and traditions before travelling to your holiday destination and when arriving make sure to take them into account. It is important to be respectful when visiting sacred places such as churches and cathedrals, mosques, temples, shrines, or monasteries.

  • Don’t take photos of the locals without their permission. People who are simply going about their usual daily lives or are at work often do not want to be photographed. Make sure to ask politely beforehand if you can take a picture but be ready to possibly accept a ‘’no’’ as an answer.

  • Try and learn the basics of the local language. Even though English is widely spoken in a lot of popular holiday destinations try and learn a couple of basic words of the local language as the locals will really appreciate your effort.

Soft tourism: a woman buying souvenirs at a market in Morocco.

If you would like to make your sustainable holiday truly unique ask the locals for recommendations on places to visit and places to eat out at. If you engage with the locals, you will enrichen your holiday experience and you may even come across some insider tips.


Sustainably managed hotels and guesthouses actively put measures in place to protect the climate and promote social justice in their region. If you find an accommodation that is particularly sustainable be sure to share your delight with others by writing a review or a testimonial to let other holidaymakers know about the opportunities and benefits of sustainable holidays.

Conclusion: Soft tourism helps to protect the environment, but it will also enrichen your holiday experience

Travelling to foreign countries, discovering other cultures, and exploring the local area are important experiences that are made possible by travelling. When travelling and following the principles of sustainable tourism you will ensure that these holiday experiences do not have any negative impacts on the environment. Sustainable holidays do not mean that you must forego holiday enjoyment. On the contrary, travelling sustainably also allows you to have a lot of great experiences and it often ensures that your holiday experience will be relaxed and environmentally friendly.

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(Accessed on 27.04.2022)

(Accessed on 27.04.2022)

(Accessed on 27.04.2022)

(Accessed on 27.04.2022)

Image sources: titova