What is sustainability in tourism?

Posted: 22 September 2021

Long gone are the days when travel was about collecting stamps in a passport and scratching tourist attractions from a superficial sightseeing to-do list. Today’s savvy travellers are demanding encounters and experiences that leave them with knowledge and understanding as well as memories and photographs. 

Sure, snapping a selfie for Facebook or capturing a video for Instagram will always be part of the travel story. But posing for a picture only takes a few seconds and, these days, travel is about embarking on a significant journey of discovery that builds the knowledge needed to make the world a better place. It’s about contributions that change the world for the better and leave a location untarnished for those that follow.

Travel isn’t about taking, it’s about giving. And for careful travellers it’s about being clean, green, responsible and respectful. This is sustainable tourism, and it’s at the core of everything we do at AAT Kings.


Talking the talk - eco-tourism, sustainable travel and responsible holidays

Put your hand up if you can articulately explain the difference between eco-tourism and sustainable travel. Top marks if you’re sitting there with your digits stretched skyward, we’re sending a gold star your way.

But if your hand is still on the mouse, or wrapped around your coffee cup, you’re not on your own as most people struggle to grasp what makes a holiday experience eco-friendly and when it steps up to become sustainable.

And to tell you the truth, there’s a very fine line separating these concepts. 

Sustainable tourism is an ambition to leave a destination undamaged. To visit a place and have a positive impact on the people, the environment and the wildlife. It’s about spending time and money wisely, supporting projects that generate revenue where it’s needed most, walking softly, being respectful, considering the carbon footprint, and not spoiling it for those that will follow in our footsteps.

Eco-tourism is about something more specific. It’s about visiting spots of natural wonder – those perfect and pristine parts of our planet yet to be exploited and over explored – with a desire to learn more about what makes them significant. 

This eco-tourism definition emerged in the late 1980s with one expert describing it as a “sustainable form of resourced-based tourism that focuses primarily on experiencing and learning about nature which is ethically managed to be low-impact, non-consumptive, and locally-orientated”. 

Responsible travel comes by embracing sustainable travel and eco-tourism when it’s time to hit the road and uncover this fragile and fascinating planet we call home.

Tamaki Village NZ

Tamaki Maori Village  | Experience on AAT Kings Northern Spotlight Guided Holiday


Sustainability, that eco-tourism definition, and how we MAKE TRAVEL MATTER

It was not enough for AAT Kings to offer itineraries accessing the iconic locations that have long topped travel wish lists – from UNESCO World Heritage sites to natural wonders and hidden gems promising picture-perfect vistas – we had to be sure it was done in a sustainable way.

After all, we have been taking travellers on tour for more than 100 years now and we want to ensure the precious places we visit will be around for centuries to come. 

We work with groups on the ground, right around Australia and New Zealand, to preserve and protect people and places while also partnering with The TreadRight Foundation to MAKE TRAVEL MATTER®.

The TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation created by The Travel Corporation – and supported by the company’s famous family of brands – to promote sustainable tourism practices.

How We Tread Right is part of the Foundation’s five-year strategy to sustainability and it’s our mission to fill itineraries with thoughtful experiences that are not only culturally conservative and environmentally sensible but help fund projects that benefit people, planet and wildlife.

Our goal is to ensure that 50 per cent of our trips will include at least one MAKE TRAVEL MATTER®. Experience, with the aim of achieving this by 2025. In order to do this, we’re supporting projects in our destinations which align with these goals and seek to educate our guests on the importance of treading lightly when we travel.

170220 TTC DAY5 GNOMONFARM 19574

Paddock to Plate at Mount Gnomon Farm | Image Credit: AAT Kings 


The mission and how we are making a difference

The TreadRight Foundation’s mission is simple. It exists to have a positive impact on the people and communities we visit, to protect wildlife and marine life, and to care for the planet we call home.

We support indigenous initiatives and call on the Yarliyil Art Centre during Wonders of the Kimberley to discover how this northern community is making tradition the foundation of culture while a stay at Ayers Rock Resort during Outback Safari subsidises health programs for Red Centre communities.

When it comes to planet preservation we’re uniting with South Pole – an organisation focused on establishing decarbonisation pathways – and assisting revegetate Victoria’s Annya State Forest with native flora after the plot was illegally cleared 20 years ago.

We also back numerous local projects and on Perfect Tasmania there’s the chance to support a sensitive ecosystem by planting natives at a not-for-profit nursery, guests “sleep softly” in eco-tents during Untamed Kimberley & West Coast, and national park fees contribute to regional conservation campaigns.

Wildlife is the third pillar of The TreadRight Foundation and we’re backing Rotorua’s Rainbow Springs Kiwi Hatchery by sponsoring eggs from incubation to hatching and release, with guests embarking on Contrasts of New Zealand treated to a behind-the-scenes tour to understand the tireless efforts to save New Zealand’s national bird.

Bay of Fires bush retreat IJ TAS

Bay of Fires Bush Retreat  | Experience on Inspiring Journeys Taste of Tasmania


Sustainability doesn't mean sacrificing on service

When eco-tourism and sustainable holidays were in their infancy a clean and green holiday meant trading on the creature comforts and little luxuries of life to walk the road less travelled. But those days are well behind us with AAT Kings seamlessly blending sparkling service with the ideals of responsible travel.

Our signature has long been personalised care, the best accommodation a destination has to offer, and exclusive experiences but we continue to raise the bar. Our travel directors promise the inside knowledge needed to access the hidden gems that line our route, and we schedule stops to meet the caretakers and
custodians of the land to learn from those that know a place best.

And there is no better way for thoughtful travellers to be clean, green, responsible and respectful when hitting the road to explore the places on our travel wish list.

Rainbow Springs NZ

Rainbow Springs Nature Park | Image Credit: AAT Kings 

By AAT Kings


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What is sustainability in tourism?



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