Sustainable family holidays – status quo & what it means for us

We love to travel! But the consequences of the ever-growing tourism industry are not leaving us unscathed. has set itself the task of following the guidelines of sustainable tourism as a portal for family-friendly accommodation and family-friendly travel.

Sustainable tourism means soft travel, taking into consideration the nature and culture of the country visited. But what does ’soft travel‘ actually mean, how do we as tourists show consideration and what can we do to travel as sustainably as possible? We want to get to the bottom of these questions and try to shed a little light into the dark.


The consequences of tourism activities for the destination country

Sustainability is not so easy when it comes to travel. Anyone who deals with the hard facts of the tourism industry quickly sees that our travel activities also have many negative consequences for the environment and the local residents.

Year after year, these become more severe as more and more people travel around the world. So the call for softer travel is becoming increasingly important.

According to the Umweltbundesamtes (German Federal Environment Agency), every form of travel pollutes all areas of the environment. Be it the emission of climate-damaging emissions on arrival and departure or the negative influence of leisure activities on the biodiversity of a country.

International & national tourism & carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (=output)

If you look at the carbon footprint of international travel activities, one thing becomes clear: Travel in particular must be seen as a major scapegoat, as it is responsible for an ever-increasing proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is also clear that high-income countries in particular travel the most.

A scientific article by the University of Sydney (Lenzen, 2018) shows that the USA, China, but also Germany are at the forefront of CO2 emissions caused by tourist traffic.

According to the German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, 2019), flying by plane must be considered. Due to the altitude, not only is more CO2 emitted, but also other environmentally harmful emissions are caused and additional atmospheric processes are set in motion that have a negative impact on the climate.

Other tourist activities can also have an impact on the environment, however. According to the Federal Environment Agency, these include, in addition to the CO2 emissions caused by flying, driving a car and so on:

  • Air pollution from tourist festivities (e.g. fireworks, barbecues, etc.)
  • High consumption of water in regions where water is scarce
  • Problematic use of water (e.g. snow cannons on slopes that are operated using additives)
  • Water pollution
  • Heavy development and land use in tourist areas for purely tourist purposes
  • Loss of biological diversity (e.g. caused by the creation of artificial bathing areas on sensitive coastal sections)

But what actually is CO2 & why is CO2 harmful?

Carbon dioxide is a gas that is colourless and non-flammable and occurs as a natural component in our air. Even breathing or digestion emits CO2, but of course only as a very small proportion.

The picture is different when burning fossil fuels (e.g. while driving a car). The more greenhouse gas is emitted, the more the concentration of this gas in the atmosphere increases, which can lead to global warming. A climatic change in the earth leads to an imbalance in our ecosystem.

See also: a brief history of CO2 emissions:

Overtourism as a result of increasing willingness to travel

Anyone who speaks of the consequences of increasing travel activities around the world cannot ignore the modern term ‚overtourism. This describes the negative effects of over-visited places or cities. Not only the environment has to struggle with the consequences, but also the locals.

Overtourism is often read and mentioned in connection with mass tourism, but both terms should not be lumped together. A slight increase in tourists in a small region can already have a negative impact on the lives of the residents (cf. Koens, 2018).

Examples of over-visited places in Europe that suffer from overtourism are Barcelona in the high season, Mallorca as Germany’s favourite holiday island, but also Oia on the Greek holiday island of Santorini, whose sunsets are a very popular motif for Instagram and others and thus attracts even more tourists.

The problems of overtourism meanwhile ensure many discussions on the part of governments and also the population in order to create solutions on a national level, but also internationally.

A well-known example is the temporary closure of the Thai dream beach Maya Bay, which attracts several thousand tourists every day thanks to the film „The Beach“. Coral banks are supposed to be able to recover during this time and during the closure, they want to do something more about the heavy pollution on the beach and the water (for example from sunscreen) by tourists.


Soft travel for a better climate balance & for more consideration for nature & culture

We know it is hardly possible to have tourism is hardly possible without any consequences, but there are many practical tips and also simple attitudes for how we as tourists can travel wisely.

At we of course also know that we contribute negatively to the climate balance with every travel activity and we want to campaign for the subject of „soft tourism“ in order to keep the consequences of our actions as small as possible.

On this page, we present you with ways to travel more softly.


Sustainable tourism is not ecotourism

Sustainable tourism and ecotourism are often understood to have the same intentions. Strictly speaking, however, a distinction must be made here.

Ecotourism is understood to mean „responsible travel in natural areas that protects the environment and increases the prosperity of the locals“ (, 2018). Originally formulated by The Ecotourism Society (1991): „Ecotourism is responsible for travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the wellbeing of local people“.

Ideally, this means travelling to a country that also benefits from the holidaymakers. Tourists, for example, actively campaign for the preservation of the ecosystem (e.g. by donating or collecting garbage).

However, those who travel sustainably try to keep their ecological footprint as low as possible or to respect the nature and culture of the travel destination and not to overwhelm them with their trip, but do not equally contribute to environmental protection. So you have to be aware: Those who travel softly still leave their mark. We aim to leave the smallest possible mark on the country we are travelling to.


Soft tourism is the counter model to mass tourism

Soft or sustainable tourism, or also often referred to as integrative or future-oriented tourism, is the opposite of mass tourism. As before, tourism is one of the most important sources of income for many countries (and regions), so that tourist spots quickly become dependent on transnational companies, i.e. cross-border companies, which in turn often promote mass tourism.

Soft travel thus means to support the region/country financially through tourist activities but to be particularly considerate of nature and culture, while the money is spent consciously.


Practical tips for travelling softly and sustainably would like to support sustainable tourism and thus show all travel fans that it is not that difficult to go on a soft family holiday. There are many ways to travel in a more environmentally friendly and respectful manner. You alone decide which practical tips you implement best and most easily. Every approach, every step and every form of awareness helps make travel more forward-looking.

1. Look at the holiday destination with climate-friendly eyes
We are fans of Europe! The continent has a lot to offer that makes a great family holiday. It is easy to do without long-haul flights which damage the environment. Even close by there is an adventure and a holiday atmosphere with it. So if you want to go, think a little about the carbon footprint of your arrival and departure.

If you don’t want to miss out on air travel:
The Federal Environment Agency provides a practical calculator to calculate your carbon footprint when you are travelling and thus to think again about one or the other holiday destination.

Or: Supports the atmosfair project, which was launched by the Federal Environment Ministry, among others. Here the sum of the greenhouse gases caused can be repaid. Voluntarily, of course. The money is used to support environmentally friendly projects.

And! The dose decides the poison … We’re not saints either, we’ve been on long-haul flights at one time or another. Nevertheless, it is about travelling consciously and considering whether one or the other flight is necessary.

The length of the trip also decides! Better to fly away for two weeks than plan a short trip by plane regularly.

2. Consciously on the move: Bicycle, bus, train etc.
It doesn’t always have to be the car. We can also get to our destination quickly and, above all, more safely using the public transport network. The advantage for families: Mum AND Dad can take care of things equally.

Or: How about a bike tour in the holiday destination? It doesn’t always have to be a road trip in the car. It is also possible to travel a country on impressive, family-friendly hikes and on a bike.

3. Conscious behaviour on site
Safe drinking water, use heating and air conditioning as rarely as possible, avoid disposable items. Conscious, climate-friendly behaviour in the travel destination contributes a lot to creating a neutral climate balance.

4. Avoid overtourism: Consider the time and place
Barcelona does not need to be visited in the high season, Bordeaux is also a French dream and can easily keep up with Paris. You see! With a little planning, over-visited places can be avoided. You as a family also benefit from this, because who among thousands is able to discover a supposedly romantic place in the crowd for themselves?

5. Spend money “properly” on vacation
Avoid transnational companies, rather support local companies. You don’t necessarily have to get a cosy morning coffee while strolling at Starbucks, and certainly not in environmentally harmful disposable packaging! Family-friendly hotels are much nicer anyway if they are run by a local family (KEYWORD ;-)).

6. Sustainability & skiing
Skiing is not considered particularly sustainable. Nevertheless, there are a few tips and tricks for this sport as well:

  • Use nearby ski areas
  • Chair lift instead of drag lift – is also more environmentally friendly
  • Take the skis on the train rather than the plane to Montreal (obviously!)
  • Avoid skiing when snow conditions are bad, because snow cannons are a killer for soft tourism
  • Small ski areas are more ecologically sustainable than large ones

More information

Lenzen M. et al. The carbon footprint of global tourism
(June 2018) in Nature Climate Change, Vol. 8 (pp. 522-528):

Koens K. et al. (Nov. 2018) Is Overtourism Overused? Understanding the Impact of Tourism in a City Context IN Sustainability 2018, 10, 4384 doi:10.3390/su10124384

Nachhaltiger Tourismus

Ko-Phi-Phi: Thailand schließt den Traumstrand aus ‚The-Beach‘

Umwelttipps für Urlaubsreisen

Ökotourismus & Ökologischer Tourismus

Klimawandel und Tourismus

Tourismus mit Respekt & Weitblick

Tourismuspolitischer Bericht der Bundesregierung

Atmosfair – der Emissionsrechner

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