Sustainable holidays

Last updated: 11 January 2022

There are many ways to take a sustainable holiday, including cycling trips, camping, volunteering, choosing sustainable accommodation and tweaking your holiday transportation.

The facts about tourism

  • More than one billion tourists cross international borders each year
  • By 2030, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasts that this number will reach 1.8 billion
  • International tourism represents 7% of the world's exports in goods and services
  • Tourism is one of the world's fastest growing industries, having grown faster than world trade over the past four years
  • In terms of worldwide exports, tourism ranks third after fuels and chemicals and ahead of food and automotive products.

Reducing your travel footprint doesn't mean giving up your holidays. Taking a sustainable approach to your travel plans will encourage you to engage with your surroundings and make a positive contribution at your destination.

What is a sustainable holiday?

A sustainable holiday is about taking your approaches to living sustainably from your everyday life into your holiday experiences. It is also about ensuring the environment and people in the places you visit benefit from the money you spend there.

Sustainable or responsible tourism should:

  • conserve the environment, culture and social heritage of a destination
  • generate economic benefits for local people.

Sustainable accommodation

Sustainable accommodation aims to reduce waste through practices such as water and energy conservation, recycling and environmentally-friendly cleaning. Many properties that emphasise sustainability also support local conservation programs.

Camping is an obvious sustainable accommodation choice, but it is not the only one. Many online booking platforms now promote sustainable holidays and responsible accommodation. Choosing sustainable accommodation is also about the choices you make during your stay, such as turning off lights and air conditioning when you're not in your room, and reusing your towel rather than having it replaced after every wash.

Cycling trips

Victoria, like the rest of Australia, has magnificent scenery and wildlife, and cycling is a wonderful way to see it. In fact Victoria has the most developed rail trails of any Australia state. Whether you cycle straight from your home, or take bikes with you on public transport, by car or plane, cycling will reduce your holiday greenhouse emissions. Combine cycling and camping for a fun, healthy, inexpensive and sustainable family holiday.


Camping is a sustainable holiday choice, but only if we limit our impact on the environment as much as possible. There is a range of camping options – from fully-serviced luxury tents to remote wilderness sites in one of Victoria's more than 100 beautiful national parks.

Don't forget to:

  • carpool to get there
  • take plastic bags to sort and recycle your rubbish
  • resist the temptation to disturb or feed wildlife
  • check for fire restrictions and take your own fire wood (from sustainable sources)
  • plan ahead to reduce your food waste (leftovers are unlikely to keep)
  • take a bucket for washing up and save water as much as possible
  • leave nothing but footprints and pick up any litter that you find.

While camping is good for the environment, you will also benefit from:

  • exploring natural beauty
  • getting exercise
  • breathing fresh air
  • doing a digital detox – no screens, wi-fi or devices that can plug in
  • spending quality time with friends and family.


Getting involved in local projects is an excellent way to enhance your trip and make a positive difference at the same time. Projects range from twelve-month conservation placements to a few days clearing beaches of litter, and can be arranged before you leave or once you get there. Many students are now opting to take a break – a 'gap year' – between high school and university, to learn about the world and volunteer for environmental and human welfare causes. If time is tight, consider staying with indigenous communities to learn about their culture and support their way of life.

Sustainable shopping

Make sustainable shopping choices while on holiday when purchasing food, souvenirs and gifts, and where you spend your money.

  • Purchase locally made rather than imported items.
  • Don't buy souvenirs and gifts made from wildlife such as shells (including turtle shell) and coral.
  • Reconsider buying souvenirs and gifts made from wood, unless you are certain they are not made from protected or endangered trees.
  • Eat meals made from local ingredients wherever possible, avoiding protected or endangered wildlife such as seafood where applicable.
  • Share your money around and help the local economy by purchasing from different local shops and eating at several local restaurants.

Sustainable holiday transport

Choosing sustainable transport doesn't mean you can never fly anywhere. Instead, think about taking trips closer to home and avoiding flights entirely wherever possible. Where flights are unavoidable, travel overland and use local public transport in the countries you visit.

Research the airlines to find the newer, more fuel-efficient fleets, and take direct flights whenever possible, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And don’t forget your feet and legs. Walking, trekking and cycling are wonderful ways to explore.

Five sustainable holiday tips

1. Travel locally

Victoria is a beautiful state with so much to offer. Don't miss out on incredible sites and activities in your own backyard.

2. Consider camping

If you've never tried camping, you're missing out, and there is a style of camping for everyone. Get outdoors and take a break from the digital, plugged-in world.

3. Save water on holiday too

Water is precious at home and when we're on holiday. Save water as you would at home, by taking showers rather than baths, using the half-flush when you can and turning off the tap when brushing your teeth.

4. Offset your flights

Buy carbon offset units to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases released as a result of your air travel. Offset units support projects that reduce or remove emissions from the atmosphere, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation. Offset credits should be purchased from accredited offset scheme providers.

5. Leave only footprints

Take all your rubbish with you, don't feed wildlife, stay on marked trails to avoid damaging plants and wildlife, and empty soapy water far from waterways. It might be tempting to collect shells, driftwood, pebbles and other natural souvenirs, but if everyone did this, there would be nothing left. Leave your holiday destination as you found it or, better still, pick up some litter while you're there.