Understanding Sustainable Student Travel

Jan 24, 2023

SYTA’s mission is dedicated to providing life-enhancing travel experiences to students and young people. Knowing this, it makes sense that looking ahead to the future should always top of mind. In order to ensure future generations of students can enjoy the undeniable benefits of travel, educators are encouraged to find ways to think about their trips in a sustainable way—not only to continue to provide memories to last a lifetime, but also for the well-being of our planet and the communities we visit. Below, we touch on a few points to get you started.

First, understand what sustainable tourism looks like.

Do your research to best understand what sustainable tourism is and the difference between other similar terms in the industry. According to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, sustainable tourism does not refer to a specific type of tourism, but rather is an aspiration for the impacts of all forms of tourism to be sustainable for generations to come. Ecotourism refers to a niche segment of tourism in natural areas, while responsible travel refers to the behavior and style of individual travelers and emphasizes leaving a positive (rather than negative) impact on a destination.

Have conversations.

Emphasize the importance of sustainable and responsible tourism in conversations with stakeholders in your community (parents, your school board, donors, etc.) as it specifically pertains to your students traveling. Getting more people on board with making sustainable choices and understanding why they’re necessary is key in producing more environmentally sound outcomes. It never hurts to keep these topics top of mind with those involved in every stage of the student travel planning process.

Work with those who prioritize sustainability.

Inquire about working with suppliers and operators who have a purposeful focus on sustainability. This could include having a written policy covering environmental impact, employment and cultural policy; offering trips to under-traveled destinations; developing itineraries which include restaurants featuring locally produced food; making it a point to visit attractions whose buildings are LEED certified and more. It’s also worth noting the environmental impacts of your chosen transportation method and how there could be room for improvement, if any.

Pack (and act) intentionally.

Bring students into the fold by explaining how their actions while on the trip can directly influence sustainable outcomes. This could mean creating a packing list that’s curated with environmental consciousness in mind (packing their own reusable water bottles and bags instead of opting for disposable options), and acting responsibly (recycling when possible, leaving no trace in natural environments, engaging respectfully in local culture, etc.).

While embarking into the realm of sustainable tourism and responsible travel is more of a journey than an arrival at a single destination, small actions undoubtedly add up to a greater result, pushing the needle further toward a more sustainable future for all.


Tourism Cares

Center for Responsible Travel

The Travel Foundation

Global Sustainable Tourism Council

The World Tourism Organization