How You Can Travel, Enjoy And Respect: Hostels And A Sustainable Tourism

by | Jul 4, 2017 | Hostelling

The 2017 was announced by United Nations as an International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The main point is to increase awareness between travellers, governments and the travel industry itself in order to make a tourism a part of a positive change. So what does it mean for us: Hosteliers, Travellers and Tourists?

Tourism and travelling enables a multicultural exchange. You can see with your own eyes and feel with your senses different cultures. You get closer to the nature. The money you spend on local products, trips and guides might contribute to the community you visit.

I believe that if we participate and try to make our workplaces more environmental friendly and we start to travel more responsibly, we can have a positive impact on the planet and the communities we visit.

According to the studies made by Momondo, 76% of surveyed people admitted that travelling made them look more positively on the differences and diversity.

Considering that tourism represents 10% of world’s GDP and with more than 1.2 billion people travelling we should face a fact that this industry matters. And it will grow, creating more workplaces and more income. By 2030 UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) predicts that number of international tourists will increase to 1,8 billion people.

Tourism is much more than you imagine.



‘Why Tourism Matters’ Infographic (Source)

What is a sustainable tourism?

As you can see tourism is one of the fastest growing industry and for many countries it is the main resource of income. It has direct or indirect effect on the cultural heritage, environment and quality of life of people.

Travelling and learning to understand each other are the ground of the tolerance between people. It is desirable that people travel more freely without increase of their ecological footprints.

Tourism is one of the key factors that influence the development of the communities you visit during your travels. So as you can imagine, if it is led uncontrolled or unorganized it can have a negative influence on society, culture and ecology.

Sustainable tourism is defined as:

Definition of Sustainable Tourism (Source)

Me, hostel owners, managers and a staff have a big impact on the community we work in. So working in a responsible and ethical way can minimize the negative influence it can have on our environment, cultural heritage and societies around the globe.

There are many ways and examples on how hostels can be sustainable and make the world a better place.

Hostels and a Sustainable Tourism

1. Employing the local people (minimum level of local employment)

Opening a hostel in a new destination, whether if it’s in your hometown or somewhere else, means creating new workplaces. And the best practice, that boost the local market is to give work to the local people. It actually sounds funny from the person who usually works abroad and literally might take the job that some of the locals might do. Nevertheless in each hostel that I’ve been working in the staff was either mostly build from the local people or it was 50-50. Fair enough.

As a hostel owner/ manager/ staff there are so many things you can do in order to support local people. The best example is this Moroccan hostel: Amayour Surf Hostel which pays for classes of English for their employees (and they do many more things – just read about it on Hostel Geeks!)

Another great idea is to work with guides, and tours companies which are the local businesses.

2. Engaging tourists and locals together in social projects (beach cleanings, workshops)

Another great way for your hostel to make a difference. Either through workshops for your staff (you can create some funny games or week challenges) and your guests to raise their awareness of being a responsible traveller. Announce in the hostel a collection of clothes among the guests and the staff (devoted for charities later on) or dinners from the local products. If your hostel is close to the beach arrange a beach clean up and try to engage also local people (your neighbours for instance).

In this way your guests have an opportunity to build relation with the local community. You can bring together people from different backgrounds and through social activities create new friendships above the differences and support mutual understanding.

3. Supporting local community

Your hostel can donate some part of the profits for the local organisations or some good causes(charities). Think that by doing something good it not only improves your image but also is a great way to promote your business.

4. Minimum wage level approved by independent labour unions

Respect your employees and pay them the respectful and fair wage. In my opinion if you create a business you should be aware of the costs that will go along. In some places it is easy to find a cheap work-force as for some it is a matter of necessity to earn even if this will be a little. As an entrepreneur you should not over use this fact. Pay to your people the amount of money that they deserve for their work – not below the minimum wage.

5. Social activities and games for your guests and staff

If your hostels organize activities and games in order to bring together guests why not trying out including a little bit of education? Some easy ideas:

  • environment-related movie night here you can find an inspiration
  • play card games created by HI hostels (or made by you) that will make your guests talking! Afterall more open, tolerant world starts with a simple conversation that makes people from different cultures understand each other and proofs that above all they have lots in common (like passion for travels for instant!)
  • dinners prepared from the ingredients from your own hostel garden (if you have one)
  • raise awareness of importance of saving the water – challenge your guests to take a shower in a certain amount of time (below 5 minutes?) and prepare fun prizes so they will remember you forever!

6. Giving a space for the local artists

Get close to your community and give a space for their art. You might know a gifted person who creates beautiful craft things that can be a perfect as a souvenir? Why not selling it to your guests?

Another great idea is to devote some space for the paintings or other art work. You have a free, interesting decoration and you also support artists!

7. Promoting local restaurants, bars, shops with souvenirs between your guests

Train your staff to give good tips to the guests. Leave in the reception the suggestions of the shops, bars, restaurants that are run by local people. You can also take your staff to try out those places by themself. It can be a great opportunity to bound them together!

8. Be more environmental friendly

Eco lights, trash segregation, reduction of CO2, being conscious about the water consumption (control if there are any leakages – you can include it on the check list for the housekeeping).

Here are some great examples of hostels that are not only sustainable but also promote it between their guests.

Hostelling International: Sustainable Tourism through Hostelling

HI has been on the mission on sustainability and raising awareness between its staff and guests since 1932. Due to International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development they have prepared a campaign which defines 10 different areas of sustainable hostelling. Each month of the year is dedicated to the improvement of one of those areas. Their activity includes also fun games with prizes, dinners and a strong social media activity around this topic.

Read more about their actions as I find it great and inspiring!

Favela Experience

The true experience. Hostel in Rio de Janeiro that is located in favela and gives 40% of its profits to the local community. And they do so much more! Check out an interview with them on

The Student Hotel Group

They state that sustainability is in their DNA. In each location they introduce the efficient and eco-friendly solutions for their buildings. Support of local initiatives and foundations is yet another responsible attitude. Recently they announced their action to lower and control their water consumption.

Surfing Turtle Lodge

Another interesting hostel. Imagine spending your holidays in a paradise while doing something good… This hostel helps to protect the sea turtles in danger and encourage its guests to get involved too. How beautiful is this?

Amayour Surf Hostel

Mentioned already before, this hostel is a fantastic example of being sustainable.

Without a doubt tourism has a fantastic potential to boost local development, create jobs for local people and improve their living. That is why I call you – my dear hostel community – to implement sustainability in your hostels and to promote responsible travelling between your guests. I am aware that sometimes being eco-friendly means costs which you can’t afford but even by the small actions, changes and activities you can make a difference and have a positive impact.

One more important thought! You don’t need to be an eco hostel in order to implement some of the above ideas. Sometimes it is enough to work in an ethical and a responsible way.

Even with little steps and actions, as a hostel owner/ manager or staff you can raise awareness between other travellers and be a proof that being sustainable can influence our lives for the better.

Resources that I used for writing this post and other websites related to sustainable tourism, you can find in the link below:

Sustainable Tourism – References

Wish you a great hostelling!

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Posted by Ewa Gabara

Posted by Ewa Gabara

Founder of Don’t Mess With The Receptionist. I geek out on hostels and I’m a long-time receptionist turned into a copywriter. I help the hospitality and travel brands conquer the world with words.

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