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Silent tourism, slow tourism, and 7 other emerging sustainable tourism trends

Following a year marked by unprecedented temperatures and a rising consciousness of the environmental footprint, tourism stakeholders alongside travelers bear the duty not just to lessen their environmental impact during their explorations, but also to actively contribute to the preservation of ecosystems and support for local communities.

This blog post explores the latest sustainable tourism trends that motivate destination management organizations (DMOs), attractions, travel businesses, tour operators, and travelers alike to adopt eco-friendly practices, developing a greener, more responsible travel industry.

Silent tourism

1 What is silent tourism? Finding peace in travel

In 2024, the travel industry is moving towards silent tourism, catering to seekers of tranquility amid modern chaos. This trend offers an escape from bustling tourist activities, allowing travelers to disconnect from daily noise and distractions. As the world recovers from the pandemic and tackles other ongoing global challenges, the allure of silence grows stronger. Silent tourism includes peaceful travel like wellness retreats for meditation, quiet hotels for rest and rejuvenation, and nature walks without the interference of digital devices. European Quiet Parks, Peace & Quiet hotel in Swedish Lapland, or the Silent Living guest houses in Portugal, and Camino de Santiago (the ancient pilgrimage route of Spain) are great examples of silent destinations. Moreover, adventurous silent-seekers can trek trails of peaceful Japan's Kumano Kodo or venture into the Arctic landscapes of Finland.

The recent surge in popularity of silent walking, highlighted by social media platforms such as TikTok, reflects a collective desire to find peace away from the constant buzz of technology. Solo travelers, who account for 17% of all global travel, are progressively drawn to silent tourism for its unique blend of solitude and mindfulness. This echoes the Global Wellness Institute's prediction of a 21% increase in wellness tourism by 2025, suggesting that silence could serve as a valuable antidote to the overstimulation prevalent today. Additionally, silent tourism aligns with efforts toward sustainable travel, emphasizing mindful interactions with both local cultures and natural landscapes.

Silent tourism, slow tourism trends

Propelling silent tourism into the future with artificial intelligence

Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way tourism destinations interact with visitors, making travel experiences more personalized and accessible. For example, AI-driven content management systems enable the creation of tailored guide content and itineraries, catering to the diverse interests of travelers and diverting crowds to lesser-known spots. Additionally, integrated AI-based translation tools such as DeepL overcome language barriers, allowing seamless access to information for people from various linguistic backgrounds. The development of text-to-speech technology further enhances the visitors’ encounters, providing audio guides with high-quality narration that respects the serene atmosphere of silent tourism sites.

Digital audio guide platforms, like SmartGuide, leverage these technological innovations to support silent tourism. Moreover, by providing big data dashboards, these platforms allow for the analysis of tourist behaviors and preferences, aiding in the optimization of tourism traffic. This not only adheres to the principles of silent tourism by preventing overcrowding but also aids in the sustainability of these precious locales, showcasing how technology can be a powerful ally in preserving the essence of silent travel destinations.

big data dashboards of SmartGuide digital audio guide

Big data analytics by SmartGuide digital audio guide platform

2 A new way to travel – Rise of slow tourism

Slow tourism, also recognized as slow travel, is another emerging sustainable tourism trend. This approach to travel encourages a more leisurely pace, allowing for deeper connections with local cultures, environments, and communities. This trend is not just gaining popularity but is also forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 10%.

The essence of slow tourism lies in its departure from the traditional, often consumerist travel motivations. Instead of rushing through destinations or ticking off attractions, slow travel emphasizes experiences that are purposeful, educational, and emotionally enriching. A survey reflecting the sentiments of Americans across various demographics found an overwhelming interest in slow tourism, with over 94% of respondents expressing a desire to engage in such travel experiences in the future. Similarly, according to one research, 53% of French people showed interest in slow tourism, expressing a preference for taking their time to explore a country and enjoy unique experiences while immersing themselves in foreign cultures. 

One of the key advantages of slow tourism is its environmental impact. By favoring slower modes of transport like trains over airplanes and spending more time in each location, travelers can greatly reduce their carbon emissions and also contribute to the preservation of destinations for future generations. Furthermore, slow tourism develops cultural appreciation and understanding, encouraging tourists to explore the nuances of regional life, benefiting local communities by directing tourist spending towards small businesses, and reducing the adverse effects of mass tourism.

Silent tourism, slow tourism trends

AI-powered recommendations - Paving the way for slow tourism

AI-powered personalized recommendations, already commonplace in the retail and entertainment sectors, are set to become a fundamental part of the travel industry in 2024. By analyzing data from a traveler's previous journeys, preferences, and activities as they happen, AI can recommend attractions and destinations that match their interests. This personalized method not only improves the travel experience but also allows DMOs and tourism businesses to effectively offer additional services, thus, boosting local economies.

For instance, if a visitor is keen on exploring local art, an AI system such as could identify and suggest top museums or art shows that cater to this passion. In this way, these AI-generated recommendations provided by platforms such as SmartGuide audio guide contribute to the principles of slow tourism by inspiring travelers to explore new and hidden gems more deeply, aligning perfectly with their interests and supporting sustainable travel practices by dispensing crowds.

Personalized recommendations by SmartGuide digital audio guide

Personalized recommendations by SmartGuide digital audio guide

3 Steering towards a greener future with train travel

Amid growing concerns over the environmental impact of air travel, trains are evolving as a viable and eco-friendly alternative. A single round-trip flight from London to Madrid, for example, contributes approximately 0.38 tons of carbon to an individual's carbon footprint. This amount is equivalent to the carbon savings from adhering to a plant-based diet for six months. Opting for train travel, especially for short-haul journeys, can substantially reduce one's environmental impact.

Recognizing the urgency to promote responsible travel choices, governments, and industry stakeholders are implementing measures to make trains an attractive option for visitors. France has taken a bold step by legislating a ban on domestic flights for routes that can be covered by a 2.5-hour train journey. Although the scope of this legislation could be broader, it signifies a clear preference for rail travel over aviation within the country.

Further bolstering the appeal of train travel, Europe is witnessing major expansions in its high-speed and overnight train networks. Ambitious projects are underway to connect more destinations across the continent, enhancing convenience and accessibility for travelers. The introduction of new routes, such as the Brussels to Prague and Amsterdam to Barcelona sleepers, alongside a new Eurostar link designed to facilitate easier access to the French Alps for skiers, underscores the growing interest in and commitment to rail travel.

Silent tourism, slow tourism, and 7 other emerging sustainable tourism trends

4 The beginning of sustainable flying and zero-emission flights 

The quest for sustainable air travel has been a long-standing endeavor, aiming to reconcile the need for global connectivity with environmental stewardship. Despite aviation contributing to 2.1% of global carbon emissions, the demand for air travel is not diminishing. Instead, it's expected to grow from 4 billion in 2019 to 8 billion in the next 20 years, driven by the rising middle class in populous countries like China, India, and Brazil.

Given the critical role of global tourism in supporting numerous economies and livelihoods, the solution for a more sustainable future does not lie in ceasing air travel but in innovating it. Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) represent an important stride toward this goal. Marking a milestone in aviation history, Virgin Atlantic recently completed the first 100% fossil fuel-free trans-Atlantic flight, showcasing the potential of SAFs in reducing the environmental impact of flying.

Further initiatives underscore the global commitment to greener skies. Sweden has set ambitious targets to achieve fossil fuel-free domestic flights by 2030 and aims to extend this to international flights by 2045. In the sphere of aircraft advancement, Airbus leads the way with its development of the first zero-emissions commercial jets powered by hydrogen, set for release by 2035. Additionally, UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles is pioneering the Airlander 10, a helium-filled, hybrid-electric airship expected to take to the skies by 2027, with plans for entirely zero-emissions models by 2030.

Sustainable flying

5 The global carbon budget and impact of carbon passports

The travel industry is focusing on reducing carbon output through the new concept of carbon passports. What's a carbon passport? This system suggests regulating travelers' greenhouse gas emissions by assigning an annual carbon quota. Carbon passports set personal allowances, restricting travel based on carbon consumption. The goal is to align with the global carbon budget to limit emissions and prevent climate damage.

As we look towards 2040, the prevalence of carbon passports is expected to rise, with individuals required to monitor their carbon footprint meticulously. Activities such as using ride-sharing services, boarding on airplane trips, and even daily errands like grocery shopping would need to be tracked via smartphones.

It is anticipated that individuals will have to adhere to a personal carbon allowance of approximately 2.3 tons annually by 2040. This figure starkly contrasts with current per capita emissions in countries like the US (16 tons), Australia (15 tons), and the UK (11.7 tons). The introduction of carbon passports aims to considerably reduce these figures, steering society towards a more sustainable mode of living and traveling.

In parallel to carbon passports, the travel industry is also seeing modern ways aimed at reducing resource usage and promoting sustainability. Tour guide apps, such as SmartGuide, exemplify this trend with self-guided tours. By providing digital guides directly on travelers' smartphones, these applications eliminate the need for printed materials and handouts, further contributing to environmental conservation.

6 The shift to carbon-zero destinations and regenerative tourism

Carbon-zero destinations are locations that aim to reduce their carbon footprint to zero or near-zero levels. Queenstown in New Zealand is on track to become the world's first carbon-zero tourist destination by 2030 with de-carbonization initiatives. For instance, Air New Zealand aims to replace its domestic fleet with green hydrogen or battery hybrid-powered aircraft by 2026. Additionally, the region is expanding its EV infrastructure, introducing small hydrogen-powered ferries across the lake, and developing new renewable energy projects like solar farms alongside existing wind farms. The destination is also focusing on regenerative tourism strategies to protect the environment for future generations while accommodating a growing number of visitors each year. In Hainan, China similar efforts are underway to reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainable tourism practices. By targeting a carbon-zero status, these destinations are setting a precedent for other regions to follow suit in adopting eco-friendly practices.

What is regenerative tourism?

This strategy for eco-conscious tourism strives to do more than just reduce travel's negative effects on the environment. It seeks to actively repair and enhance ecosystems that have suffered damage.

For example, in several coastal areas, certain tour operators organize beach clean-up activities that allow tourists to play an essential role in marine conservation efforts. Additionally, some tour agencies provide adventurous travel opportunities that involve visitors in reforestation efforts. Essentially, regenerative tourism is about creating substantial and measurable positive impacts, moving beyond simply lessening travel's adverse effects on our planet.

Regenerative tourism

7 Community-based tourism - Preserving cultures and creating opportunities

Growing awareness of sustainable tourism is prompting a focus on positively impacting local economies and communities. This shift fuels the rise of Community-Based Tourism (CBT) as an alternative to the adverse effects of mass tourism. These can include weakened local traditions, loss of traditional jobs, people having to move away from their regional houses, and locals feeling left out of tourism decisions.

CBT strengthens residents by involving them in planning, developing, and managing tourism in their area. This strategy helps preserve cultures, brings economic benefits, supports environmental conservation, and boosts community engagement in tourism activities. Examples of successful CBT initiatives include Santana Madeira, Navaho tribes in Arizona and Skanzen in Slovakia

In September 2023, a landmark initiative was launched in Yucatán, Mexico - a region that has previously suffered from overcrowding. The "Capacity Enhancement for Community Tourism in Yucatán," introduced by The Secretary of Tourism Development of Yucatán (SEFOTUR), UNESCO in Mexico, Airbnb, and the Union of Community Tourism Cooperatives Co’ox Mayab, marks a significant step forward. This program, the first of its kind in Mexico, seeks to equip small, local suppliers with the tools and knowledge to thrive through responsible tourism practices, emphasizing community welfare and environmental conservation.

8 Exploring the green behind the scenes with back-of-house tours

Back-of-house tours are a rising sustainable tourism trend, showcasing eco-friendly practices in hotels and other tourism businesses. These tours educate travelers on environmental impact reduction and sustainable practices.

A study found that 87% of global travelers want to travel sustainably, with 67% willing to pay extra for eco-friendly experiences. This reveals a high demand for sustainable tourism, including educational activities like back-of-house tours highlighting green practices in hospitality. The Sustainability Back of House Tour offered by the Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI) at Six Senses Laamu, for instance, provides guests with a unique opportunity to witness sustainability initiatives in action behind the scenes. 

Hotels and resorts are increasingly investing in sustainable technologies to lower their carbon footprint. Measures like energy-efficient lighting, water-saving fixtures, and waste-reduction strategies are now standard.

According to a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the global travel and tourism sector accounts for around 8.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By offering back-of-house tours that highlight these sustainability efforts, tourism businesses can not only engage their guests but also contribute to reducing the industry's overall environmental impact.

9 Shoulder season travel – A strategic approach to avoiding overcrowding in tourism

Shoulder season travel, marked by its timing between the peak and off-peak periods, is becoming appealing to a broad spectrum of travelers. This trend is being propelled into 2024 by a mix of social, economic, and environmental considerations. The current cost of living crisis has led many to seek out travel options that offer better value, with shoulder season presenting an attractive alternative due to generally lower prices. A survey conducted by for 2024 travel trends indicates that cost is a main factor in travel planning for 62% of respondents. Nearly half (47%) of those surveyed are considering taking children out of school to take advantage of cheaper travel during off-peak times.

The inclination towards shoulder season travel is further influenced by rising temperatures and flexible work arrangements. Traveling during these off-peak times becomes easier with pleasant weather and adjustable work schedules, spreading tourist traffic evenly throughout the year and reducing pressure on destinations prone to overcrowding during peak seasons.

Sustainable tourism trends

Current policies and events around sustainable tourism

Events and legislation in 2023 demonstrate the increasing momentum towards achieving carbon-zero tourism. They set the stage for a future where sustainability becomes a top priority, shaping the tourism industry into a more responsible and environmentally conscious sector. Some of these include:

1. EU Green Deal Destination Certification Launch (2023)

  • This launch marked a significant milestone by establishing universally recognized benchmarks for sustainable tourism practices, encompassing various aspects like resource efficiency, waste management, biodiversity protection, and community engagement.
  • The first certifications targeted for 2024 will provide a transparent and verifiable system for destinations to showcase their commitment to environmental stewardship.

2. World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit 2023 (WTTC)

  • The WTTC's focus on conservation techniques highlighted their crucial role in protecting natural and cultural heritage, vital elements of tourism experiences.
  • The summit explored modern conservation approaches like sustainable resource management, ecotourism partnerships, and community-based conservation initiatives.

3. Announcement of the 2023 Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDSI) Results

  • The GDSI results offered a data-driven assessment of sustainability efforts across various destinations. This provided a standard for comparison and encouraged destinations to strive for continuous improvement.
  • The index considered factors like environmental management, social and economic impact, and cultural preservation. By setting clear and measurable sustainability standards, the GDSI can influence policy decisions and investment priorities, pushing destinations towards more sustainable measures.

4. Inaugural Celebration of World Sustainable Transport Day (2023)

  • The objective of this event was to increase awareness and inspire action towards sustainable transport options within the tourism sector. It urged destinations to boost low-carbon transportation options.
  • Investing in sustainable transport infrastructure and encouraging its use can lower the carbon footprint of tourism and enhance air quality in tourist hotspots.

5. Island Nations Implement Stricter Environmental Regulations (2023)

  • This highlights the growing concern for protecting fragile ecosystems and island nations' vital role in this effort, potentially inspiring other destinations to adopt similar measures to protect their unique environments.
  • Measures like establishing marine protected areas and implementing coral reef conservation programs aim to mitigate the negative impacts of tourism and ensure the long-term sustainability of these ecosystems.


The travel sector is growing towards sustainability, highlighted by trends such as silent tourism, slow tourism, an increase in train travel, and the introduction of zero-emission flights. These movements, together with the growth in community-based tourism, regenerative practices, efforts towards carbon-zero destinations, the implementation of carbon passports, back-of-house tours, and the promotion of shoulder season travel, collectively signal a big change in the way the world is explored. By adopting these sustainable tourism trends, travelers and the industry are stepping into a future where travel not only offers the joy of discovery but also contributes positively to the planet and its communities.

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