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Ecotourism & Sustainable Travel

Exploring Sustainable Horizons with Erin Hynes, the Eco-Conscious Travel Influencer

Gain insights from Erin Hynes, a passionate sustainable travel influencer, as she shares her eco-friendly adventures, practical tips, and inspiring stories that will empower you to explore the world responsibly and make a positive impact on the planet

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How would you describe sustainable travel?

Sustainable travel is a model of tourism where travelers, and the larger industry, address the harms that tourism can cause. I think many people think about the term “sustainability” in the context of environmental impact, but it’s actually broader than that. Sustainable tourism is about managing the economic, social, and environmental impacts of travel, with the goal of having a positive impact instead of a negative one. 

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Why is sustainable travel important?

Over the last few decades, people have increasingly embraced travel. With the rise of budget airlines and digital booking platforms, travel has become accessible in a way that it never has been before. These days, hundreds of millions of tourists travel every year to places all over the globe, and the tourism industry is a huge economic force.

Sustainable tourism is important because it ensures the benefits of this mass tourism outweigh the negatives, making tourism a positive force. With sustainable models of tourism, people, culture, heritage, language, wildlife, natural resources, our environment, and everything else that makes this planet special are protected. 

 Some of the goals of sustainable travel are to reduce the effects of overtourism, support local and Indigenous communities, protect natural resources and wildlife, make travel accessible for those with disability, create an inclusive tourism industry, and more.

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Do you have any tips for how Canadians can be more sustainable while travelling?

There are a few simple things Canadian travellers can do! It all starts with choosing where you travel to. Many places around the world, including popular places here in Canada, are struggling with the impact of mass tourism, or overtourism. To avoid adding to that pressure, you can choose to travel in the off-season or shoulder season. Or, pick a place to go that is less overwhelmed. You’ll benefit too, because you’ll get to travel without so many crowds. 

Another important tip is to be cognizant of where you spend your money. Our dollars are a big part of how we can ensure the communities we visit benefit from tourism. Rather than staying in hotel chains, book into locally, independently owned hotels or bed and breakfasts. This way, your tourism dollars go into local hands rather than a foreign corporate entity. This practice extends beyond just hotels. Whenever you can, eat in locally owned restaurants, shop in local markets and stores, and hire local guides. 

A third tip is to travel slowly. Instead of having a packed itinerary, stay as long as you can at each place you plan to visit. Spending more time makes it possible for you to connect with the place you’re visiting – you can get to know the culture and people better. This also means you can spend more tourism dollars in that community. 

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How can Canadians plan or prepare for a sustainable trip?

The key to planning a sustainable trip is definitely awareness and research. For me, becoming a more responsible tourist has been an ongoing journey, because I’m continuing to learn new things. For example, a couple years ago I joined a tour in South East Asia that involved washing elephants. At the time, I knew that riding elephants was a bad choice, but I didn’t know that interaction with wildlife in general should be avoided – I didn’t learn that until later. So taking the time to learn is an important piece of planning sustainable trips.

It also takes some basic trip research! Look into the hotels and vendors you’re booking. See if they are locally owned, and check bad reviews for any signs of malpractice (this is especially important if you’re booking experiences that involve wildlife).

When it comes to travel, flying is typically the biggest carbon contributor to a trip. When planning a trip, try to book direct flights versus connecting, and avoid hopper flights if you can. Overland travel results in less carbon emissions, and so by taking a few hours long train or bus trip rather than a flight, you can reduce your impact significantly.

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What are some of your favourite sustainable travel activities?

Definitely spending time outdoors! I really enjoy hiring hiking guides, regardless of where I am in the world. Going on a hike with a local guide gives you a chance to spend quality time with a person who knows the place you’re visiting well. And because you’re out on a trail, there’s lots of time for conversation! You have the chance to learn about local life, beyond the hike itself. 

I’m also a big fan of homestays, for the same reasons. Spending time with a host family gives you insight into local life that is otherwise hard to experience. Every time I’ve booked a homestay, it’s ended up being the highlight of my trip. 

Keep up with Erin at and follow her on Instagram and twitter @pinatravels.

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