Being a Responsible Tourist – Our Top Tips
Yes … we know that ‘being responsible’ can sometimes be boring! But in the case of ‘responsible travel’ we think that making positive choices actually enhances your travel experience and enjoyment. So why not make the most of your next holiday, and think about how you can travel responsibly!
The United Nations has declared 2017 as the ‘Year of Sustainable Tourism’. This marks an entire year dedicated to programmes that remind us about the impact of our travel choices and the importance of making a difference to other peoples lives across the world.
We often talk to our customers about responsible travel and offer advice and guidance on the specific destination they are travelling to. The We Are Travel Team have compiled a top 10 list to help guide you in making positive choices to support sustainable tourism throughout 2017 and beyond.
1. Choose Wisely
Before you book your trip we always advise doing your research. Understand more about the company you are looking to travel with. What are their principles and guarantees about ethical and responsible tourism? When you find a trip that you would like to do, take a look at the companies website or give them a call to chat through their commitment.
2. Get Educated
Every country and community is different. Take a look at guidance on what’s appropriate in terms of behaviour, dress and body language for your destination. For instance, in Thailand the head is considered to be ‘above all else’, so it is very rude to touch somebody else’s head. An easy mistake to make if you don’t understand the local customs and beliefs. Doing a bit or pre-trip research can make all the difference to travelling responsibly. It also helps you to appreciate more about the local customs that are on show every moment of your trip. Blink and you’ll miss them!
3. Get Local
Supporting the development of local communities is a fundamental part of responsible and sustainable tourism. Encouraging the local economy to grow, enabling local workers to earn a good living and generating income to reinvest in education and infrastructure is essential to the survival of all communities. We recommend that you use local tour guides, transport options, eat local produce and stay in locally run accommodation. Every little helps!
Pretty fundamental in every walk of life really. Whenever we take a trip, we remember that we are visiting somebody else’s home. A home that they are sharing with us for our own enjoyment. Treating your fellow travellers and everyone you come across along with way with respect may sound just like common sense. You’d be surprised! If you want to take a picture of local people … always ask for permission first! Agree to send them copies when you get back home and this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Again, a practice that we would also advocate at home. When you’re packing your bags pre-trip, think about the packaging you are taking with you. A lot of countries have difficulty recycling so only take with you exactly what you need. Recycle the packaging at home. Once you’re abroad, try to limit the use of plastic bottles and other disposable items such as carrier bags. Take a small, folding bag with you so that you have something to carry your shopping around in.
6. Think Before You Buy
So many tourists have cupboards full of memorabilia and trinkets from their travels. It is great to have something to remember your trip (and to support the local economy at the same time) but take care before you buy. Steer clear of any products that may be made from endangered species, hard woods or other ‘historical items’. I was once offered a chess set made out of ‘genuine Machu Pichu’ stone in Peru. I’m not sure if it actually was … but I politely declined just in case.
7. Beware Of Animal Tourism
There are countless animal excursions and activities that seek to draw in the unsuspecting tourist with promises of ‘up close and personal’ experiences or ‘rides of a lifetime’. Riding wild animals is generally a no no, petting captive animals is also something to steer clear of. And if you see something that you are uncomfortable with … vote with your feet. If these attractions stop making money from tourists, then they will be forced to turn to a more credible alternative. For read more about animal tourism, please take a look at our Animal Welfare guidance.
8. Leave No Trace
Ever heard the saying ‘leave only footprints’? Its a great concept when thinking about responsible travel. Take a look at the seven principles from the Centre for Outdoor Ethics here. As a basic guide this provides travellers with some simple rules to follow to minimise their impact on the environment.
We are also great believers in small group travel. Sharing transport, accommodation and knowledge means that we can all work together to minimise our impact on the environment. If you haven’t taken one before, have a think about signing up for a small escorted or group tour.
9. Understand How To Help
Helping local communities and people isn’t always straight forward. We recommend that rather than giving money to beggars in the street, find a well respected charity and donate your money there. This will help to direct your donation to the most appropriate programmes to provide shelter, food and water to people in poverty. If you are with a local tour guide, they may be able to recommend a suitable charity for you.
10. Caring Is Sharing
And finally … spreading the word about responsible tourism and the positive choices that you can make will help other travellers to do the same. Talk far and wide about the wonderful destinations you have visited and the difference it makes to the local communities. You are their greatest advocate! Go share!
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