Travel more for a sustainable future? How the transformative properties of tourism play a pivotal role in sustainability.

☀️ Introduction ☀️

We all know that the majority of current tourism is inherently unsustainable, it’s not only a massive contributor to environmental degradation but social and cultural too. Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly, however, tourism has unique transformative properties which can play a pivotal role in achieving a sustainable future!

This quick article will cover:

  • Educating for sustainability & behavioural change
  • The attitude-behaviour gap and why we don’t ‘walk the talk’
  • Transformative learning and tourism
  • Educational tourism for sustainability

☀️ Body ☀️

So it may sound contradictory that tourism is vital for sustainability, but hear me out!

So far, progress towards a sustainable future has proven to be slow and extremely challenging. The UN states that at the heart of our efforts to adapt, to change, and to transform the world for the better, is education.

Educating for sustainability, however, is really difficult – it not only needs to inform but also to drive behavioural change. Frustratingly, most of our current teaching around sustainability neglect the socio-emotional processes which underpin our behaviour.

As a consequence, we have created a massive mismatch between our attitudes around sustainability and our actual behaviours: we tell our friends we think sustainability is important, but many of our unsustainable behaviours continue as usual. Basically we don’t “walk the talk”.

This issue is known as the attitude-behaviour gap, a phenomenon whereby positive attitudes fail to translate into positive behaviours. It’s suggested that this gap is due to a social desirability bias – that we often overstate the strengths of our beliefs in order to appear more socially acceptable. 

? So how do we bridge this gap and turn our words into action?

Well, one of the best ways is through an educational technique called transformative learning. Transformative learning techniques are perfect for educating about sustainability as they not only aim to inform but they also address how we act on our beliefs.

No alt text provided for this image

The best way to facilitate transformative learning is by being exposed to new cultures, opinions and experiences; as such tourism presents an ideal environment.

Research has shown that the novelty associated with travelling to new places, observing foreign cultures, and participating in non-routine activities provide unique opportunities for self-exploration which can serve as vehicles for personal transformation and long-lasting behavioural change

No alt text provided for this image

Photo: Sustainable tourism company Kogelo Tours

Linking tourism with opportunities to learn about sustainability could therefore increase the likelihood of us ‘walking the talk’ and facilitate the long-lasting behavioural change we need for a sustainable future.

In addition, if done right, these changes could also increase the sustainability of the whole tourism industry! One way of achieving this is by creating authentic and engaging educational opportunities that help support and serve the local communities and environments around which a company operates. 

Kogelo Tours, a sustainable tourism company which operates in Kenya, is a fantastic example of how to deliver quality travel experiences that drive positive behavioural change while also supporting the local communities.

No alt text provided for this image

Photo: A life changing trip to Kenya with Kogelo Tours

Side bonus – these opportunities can help enhance the travel experience and offer a competitive advance for those who implement such changes. Educational and cultural tourism experiences are now becoming popular options for many individuals. Research has shown that educational and cultural trips in particular are becoming popular with the older adult market with large disposable incomes

? If you’re interested to learn more or if you want to create similar opportunities for sustainable education at your hotel, resort or lodge, feel free to reach out by popping me a direct message > Becky Fox

? References ?

Wamsler, C. 2020: Education for sustainability Fostering a more conscious society and transformation towards sustainability:

UNESCO 2015: Rethinking Education: Towards A Global Common Good?, UNESCO, Paris:

Higgins-Desbiolles 2020: Socialising tourism for social and ecological justice after COVID-19:

Lück 2015: Education on marine mammal tours – But what do tourists want to learn:

4. Pan et al 2018: Advances and challenges in sustainable tourism toward a green economy:

Pitman et al 2010: Transformative learning in educational tourism:

Kirillova et al 2017: Tourism and Existential Transformation: An Empirical Investigatio:

Kim et al 2016: Green practices of the hotel industry: Analysis through the windows of smart tourism system:

Sie 2016: Towards an understanding of older adult educational tourism through the development of a three-phase integrated framework:

Thanks for reading and please reach out below if you have any questions


Get In Touch