Travel with conscience? Here are five sustainable destinations in Latin America

Atacama – Chile / Pixabay

With the growing awareness of the climate crisis and the impact that today’s society’s lifestyle has on the environment, the tourism industry has seen a strong shift towards greener travel.

While Latin America’s countless natural wonders and biodiversity continue to amaze visitors, their protection is paramount for future generations. Below are five of the top destinations that are setting the benchmark for sustainability in the Region.

1. Colombia: Latin America’s main sustainable tourism model.

With the world’s second-largest biodiversity and an incredibly diverse heritage that has influenced global culture, Colombians have much to be proud of – and much to protect.

Through new legislation, Colombia has recognized that tourism can be a powerful tool to preserve its cultural identity, protect the environment and generate job opportunities in rural communities. The country has 27 tourist destinations certified as sustainable by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism – more than double the number just a few years ago.

To show that a commitment to sustainability is at the top of the tourism sector’s priorities, Colombia recently became one of the founding members of the Future of Tourism Coalition, a global initiative focused on the post-pandemic recovery of the hard-hit tourism sector.

The Colombian government is committed to upholding the Coalition’s 13 guiding principles, which include: using sustainable standards, mitigating climate impacts, ensuring a fair distribution of income and encouraging responsible business practices. All of them aim to forge a new path towards a more sustainable, equitable and responsible future.

2. World-class sustainable hotels in Chile’s most attractive destinations.

Chile stands out as an adventure tourism destination among the most demanding ecotourists in the world, who seek sustainability in their travels. But it’s not just the country’s landscapes that are green – its hotel infrastructure is quite attractive in this sense, from north to south of the country.

Visitors have this clear: the new luxury is green and it is in nature destinations that have a new generation of sustainable hotels, capable of providing an experience in balance with the environment. Whether for the good use of energy, for the optimization of natural resources or for ethical practices with the environment and local communities.

The main adventure tourism destination in South America, according to the World Travel Awards 2021, Chile offers accommodation in sustainable world-class hotels, including the Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa, in San Pedro do Atacama; EcoCamp Patagonia, in Torres del Paine National Park; and EcoLodge, on Easter Island.

3. Dominican Republic embraces sustainable tourism with support from government programs.

One of the main tourist destinations in Latin America, the Dominican Republic, offers paradisiacal landscapes and exclusive beaches, such as those of Punta Cana, which attracts visitors from all over the world. The country’s tourism sector is committed to sustainability in the sense of reducing marine and land pollution, consumption of plastic materials and avoiding all waste arising from tourism.

Developed by the government with support from the United Nations for the Environment, the Dominican Republic’s sustainable tourism program includes ways to measure and reduce food waste, increase energy efficiency and promote the use of renewable energy in hotels and other accommodation. The program has also received funding from the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, through its International Climate Initiative.

4. Destinations in Peru are noteworthy for their commitment to sustainability.

With 50% of the country covered in rainforest and the credible protection efforts made in the Machu Picchu region to reduce environmental impacts, Peru reconciles nature conservation with the expansion of tourism.

It is in the Sacred Valley that ecotourism stands out. In addition to being an unparalleled hub for experiencing the ancient traditions of the Inca Empire, the beautiful valley serves as a vital agricultural hub in Peru, particularly for Cusco and beyond. Great efforts have been made to preserve the region’s culture while supporting local communities with major tourism initiatives.

5. Costa Rica is a pioneer in environmental issues.

Costa Rica has always been one step ahead when it comes to ecotourism. After years of deforestation for agricultural expansion, which reduced the country’s forest cover from over 75% in the 1940s to 26% in 1983, the government has shifted focus and is one step ahead when it comes to the environment and awareness cultural.

Today, half of the territory is again covered by forests and practically all the electricity is generated from renewable sources. This has created a virtuous circle, leading to better forms of ecotourism and a greater incentive to protect Costa Rica’s biodiversity.

While environmental policies extend to almost every corner of this verdant beauty, Monteverde’s Cloud Forest Reserve has played an extremely important role in Costa Rica’s development as an ecotourism destination. It contains the best examples of sustainability practices in the nation as a whole, and it is where many of the laudable government policies for protecting the natural environment began.

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