Natural environment  |  Successes  |  13.12.2013

Sustainable holidays are possible!

Tourism is a major industry in Spain that all too often has a negative impact on the environment, with massive tourism infrastructure built in coastal areas for instance. “Senderos y pueblos” and other small Spanish travel agencies want to develop a different type of tourism. They aim to reduce the ecological footprint of tourism in Spain and to ensure coherence with the necessities of the local communities. 

In 2012 there were 57,9 million tourists in Spain, that spent 55.777 millions euros in the country. The sector amounted for more than the 10% of the 2012 Spanish GDP. However, the Spanish consumerist-style tourism industry has a negative impact on the environment. It caused the overexploitation of the Spanish coast, the destruction of forests, biodiversity and ecosystems and an increase in water consumption, waste creation (due to huge hotels), an increase in carbon emissions from transportation via  big buses and private cars, as well as an increase in water contamination caused by large cruise ships etc. 

In addition, tourism also has an impact on economic, social and cultural environment as it has destroyed in some areas all economic activities but the touristic ones, making entire areas completely dependent on this sector and altering their cultural traditions and social dynamics. If tourism in Spain is to remain a central economic activity, solutions to the unsustainable and overcrowded current model are needed more that ever. 

In this context, several initiatives have appeared, claiming that “different holidays are possible”. Agrotravel, Viajesresponsable, Soyecoturista, Ecolodge or “Senderos y Pueblos” are some of the nowadays great range of sustainable travel agencies promoting sustainable, responsible, fair, ecological or agricultural tourism. We have picked Senderos y Pueblos as an example of a small Spanish travel agency that promotes sustainable tourism by offering active holidays in tune with nature.  Among others, the agency puts forward holiday packages that adhere to values such as:

  1. Respect the environment: Senderos y Pueblos is offering one-week holidays using sustainable transport modes. They offer genuine travel experiences in unexplored areas of Spain by bike, foot, donkey or mini-scooter, while accommodation is arranged in rural houses. 
  2. Away from the crowds: The agency is organising trips with small groups, families or couples to avoid making use of big buses or infrastructure, to distort to the minimal possible extent the destination place and its local activities and to reduce the negative environmental impacts of the touristic activities. 
  3. Importance of local community:  In these trips, tourists are not only in touch with nature but also with the local community, respecting always their cultural and traditional dynamics. Sederos y Publeos also promotes sustainable initiatives in each area, such as small restaurants and bars, rural houses and employs locals to could help tourists with the activities during their journey, thus impacting favourably on local communities.
  4. A learning experience: The aim of the agency is to allow tourists to create their own experience, away from the overcrowded organised trips. All journeys are itinerant: the family or small group follows a route by bike, donkey, scooter or on foot, making use of a map and instructions from the travel agency, but without a guide. The objective is to allow space for adventure, improvisation and to let tourists have a direct and personal contact with nature and with the locals who can help with finding the routes and with explaining the history, culture and traditions of the place. 

The agency offers a great variety of routes in different little-known regions of Spain, selected for their natural beauty, history and culture, but also trips to other countries like the Netherlands, Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, all meant to offer tourists sustainable holidays' alternatives. 


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