Do you practice sustainable tourism? Do you know what sustainable tourism is?

Sustainable tourism is the worldwide travel industry that’s committed to causing no harm to a country’s local environment and heritage, while still improving the local economy.

Now more than ever, sustainable tourism needs to be a priority for travellers, especially in developing communities.

The UN’s World Tourism Organisation or UNWTO declared 2017 the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and kicked it off by listing 5 key areas that would benefit from a stronger worldwide focus on sustainable tourism practices. They are:

● Inclusive and sustainable economic growth ● 

● Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction ●

 ● Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change ● 

● Cultural values, diversity and heritage ● 

● Mutual understanding peace and security ●

While all of these areas are very important for positive development everywhere, some are particularly relevant for Borneo, which is why we support the UNWTO’s move to make sustainable tourism the standard worldwide. Here’s why you should actively seek companies who embrace the UNWTO’s values, where to find them and how it’s helping save Borneo’s jungles.

Year of Sustainable Tourism


Sustainable tourism for development takes sustainable tourism and uses it to encourage positive growth in developing countries or areas that have suffered harm, like Borneo!

The United Nations have recognised how important tourism can be as an agent for change in unstable environments and economies, as people travel from their home countries far and wide and inject millions to billions of dollars into foreign countries.

While some of this tourism is responsible, there are unfortunately cases where visitors can harm the places they visit, from pollution, cultural insensitivity, contributing to issues of local crime or simply by being in a place that isn’t equipped to handle hordes of people.

Harmful Tourism

Image: An artist’s impression of a polluted ocean shore

The alternative? Sustainable ecotourism.

The benefits of real, certified sustainable tourism mean it’s quickly becoming the preferred way to travel and as a result the industry is expanding rapidly, which is great news…

However it’s also making the legitimate ecotourism companies harder to spot.


How many times have you travelled somewhere and been sucked in by the words sanctuary or rehabilitation, only to end up in a situation where it was obviously the opposite? Take Thailand’s Tiger Temple for example.

Thousands of tourists visited the supposedly peaceful Buddhist sanctuary to pose with docile tigers and cubs – only for it to be shut down amid claims of the keepers neglecting, abusing and trafficking its animals.


Tiger at Tiger Temple

Image: A sedated and contained tiger at Thailand’s Tiger Temple

UNWTO’s 2017 campaign was formed to build awareness around sustainable tourism and help people recognise how important it is when it’s built into the culture of a nation’s tourism industry. When you travel and prioritise ecotourism, you increase the chances of this working, and the results are powerful. 

Your research before you take a trip is the key. When you book a tour or tickets to an attraction, check if they claim to be an ecotour on their website, blog or call their management team to confirm. If you’re already overseas, ask around for reputable tour operators and ask your fellow travellers for recommendations. Here are some tips to help you spot ‘dodgy’ businesses using the example of South East Asia:

And just like when you’re at home, there’s basic sustainable tourism etiquette that will help you from causing harm to the country you’re in:

● Don’t litter anywhere ● 

● Obey local customs including rules against photography in certain places ● 

● Be considerate of zoning laws for noise pollution ● 

● Choose carbon offset options at your accomodation and on flights ● 

● Avoid littering anywhere ● 

● Try and stay at locally owned hostels and hotels, instead of chains ● 

● Avoid feeding wildlife unless specifically allowed to ● 

● Please, don’t trap or capture wildlife for photos! ● 


Orangutan Trekking Tours’ humble beginnings started with Bain, who founded the company in an effort to save the jungle. Sustainable tourism is present in every aspect of our treks and it’s the ethos of our brand.

The values of UNWTO’s five areas of improvement are all important to OTT for different reasons.

Inclusive and sustainable economic growth: Currently timber and palm oil are two of Borneo’s biggest export materials. The Roundtable on Responsible Palm Oil  and other initiatives are fighting for Borneo’s farming of palm oil to slow down and become more sustainable which is fantastic – but it’s also reducing the amount of jobs generated by the industry.

Tourism creates jobsSustainable tourism creates jobs where Bornean locals aren’t forced to compromise their culture or home environment.

Resource efficiency and environmental protection: Sustainable tourism takes care of Borneo’s fragile ecosystem. With enough damage inflicted on it’s natural resources, this is vital. It raises finances for the conservation of heritage and the wildlife – just look at the Green Team’s initiative to buy back Borneo’s forest and protect it from palm oil farming!

Mutual understanding, peace and security: An important aspect of sustainable tourism increasing in Borneo is the opportunity for cross-cultural encounters that build awareness about the angers Borneo face.

Karta Orangutan

Image: Karta the Sumatran orangutan

A great example is Adelaide Zoo raising money to buy a guard post to help protect orangutan’s habitat in Sumatra. Our own understanding of cultural and environmental issues on home turf can have positive repercussions overseas, as long as we’re diplomatic and culturally sensitive.

If you’d like to kick off your sustainable tourism habit with our team at Orangutan Trekking Tours, head to the tours page for more information and pricing!