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  • Dave Groebel

The Difference Between Sustainable Tourism and Ecotourism


Everywhere you look, it appears that "going green and clean" is sweeping across all industries. From restaurants adopting paper straws to recycling bins on every street corner in America, everyone seems to be on the bandwagon of inspired environmentalism.

Travel innovations

If you're starting to research additional ways to be a more responsible world traveler, you've likely come across terms such as "ecotourism," "voluntourism," and "sustainable tourism ." These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but in reality, they all have unique definitions and action that contributes to clean travel.

Consequences of traditional travel.

The environmental impact of traditional travel has recently come to light as we see complications from over-tourism and land erosion and degradation. Popular tourist destinations are overcrowded, over tapped, and underfunded as they cannot handle the influx of tourists who have little regard for the beautiful surroundings they are slowly breaking down. These buzzwords are not just hot topics of conversation at your next fundraiser; it's time that we embody—and then practice—what we preach regarding responsible travel.

Sustainable tourism

Sustainable tourism encompasses all aspects of tourism that consider a destination's long-term environmental and social impacts while addressing the needs and desires of visitors, host communities, and the environment. It is essentially an umbrella term for the concept of responsible tourism that can keep some of our favorite leisure activities and destinations alive and thriving. Everything from cultural heritage to environmental concerns is addressed as people seek new ways of relating to a vacation experience.

Actions taken by those involved in sustainable tourism practices include:

  • Preserving the natural environment while developing infrastructure

  • Respecting the cultural traditions of host communities and populations

  • Ensuring long-term economic success to support the destination and its people

Taking sustainable action while traveling will create meaningful, educational, and authentic experiences for travelers. This commitment to longer-term success and sustainability also sets up future generations of travelers, providing rich experiences that keep on giving.


Sustainable tourism as a whole concept gives consideration to the economic, social, and environmental impacts of travel, while ecotourism leans a bit deeper into the environmental aspect of traveling. This type of tourism seeks to conserve and protect the environment, sustain the well-being of local people, and educate others on the benefits of responsible travel.

Ecotourism focuses on nature-based tourism where the appreciation of and interaction with nature is the primary motivation behind travel. In addition, it:

  • Contains educational elements

  • Commits to small-group experiences

  • Involves locally owned businesses

  • Minimizes the impact of travel on the natural environment

  • Supports the maintenance of areas used as attractions

Much of this support comes through financial support, which provides local communities the opportunity to sustain and improve current practices while strengthening the community.

Ecotourism can be managed in a way that it helps contribute to the conservation and preservation of nature and wildlife. As travelers gain an understanding of the world around them, a greater appreciation spawns a desire to preserve and protect delicate ecosystems that require care as they contribute to our richly biodiverse world.

The future of travel

We are experiencing greater connectivity and opportunity on this Earth than ever before, and a natural extension of this newfound relationship is travel. Seeking ways to be more socially and environmentally responsible is something we must prioritize through our travel experiences, for they will help shape the future of life on this planet.

Alpha Submarine: Setting the stage for responsible travel

Alpha Submarine Adventures will be a sustainable travel submarine experience that is committed to providing rich travel experiences for nearly 40,000 passengers each year. This fall they will provide up to six dives a day off beautiful Sprat Bay to give you and your family an up-close-and-personal look at our breathtaking coral reefs. You'll get a front-row seat to this beauty and some top-notch education on how important these diverse biosystems are. Come away refreshed and changed as you treasure this unique memory for a lifetime. Visit for more information.

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