What is Responsible Tourism? We get asked this question a lot! It is not hard to see why with so many different terms out there. Sustainable Travel, Eco-Tourism, Environmental Travel are just a few terms that come up in media and travel sites. They generally all point to the same type of travel which we think we covered with our travel ethos.
We believe that enriching travel respects a destination’s heritage, environment and inhabitants. Let us show you how to experience culture and adventure in a sustainable way.Paul & Karen – globalhelpswap
It is imperative for the planet and its inhabitants that we all start practising Responsible Tourism NOW! We all know what is going on out there, the climate emergency is here and unless we all change our ways it is only going to get worse.
With the world’s population increasing all the time we have to be mindful of where and when we travel. In some areas of the world, locals are literally being pushed out of their own neighbourhoods to accommodate tourists.
Tourism can be an amazing force for good if practised in the right way. So how do we all travel more responsibly? I have asked some of the world’s leading travel journalists and bloggers for their tips to help us get started. All we have to do is take up their advice and we will be on a path that leads to a much better future for all of us.
What Is Responsible Tourism?
As a journalist who has been writing about responsible and sustainable travel since 1997– long before they became widely used industry buzzwords– the first thing I’d tell you is that the lines that define what’s truly responsible or sustainable are constantly changing as our understanding of nature, science, and how ecosystems operate evolves. But in my eyes, there’s never been a better definition than the one Megan Epler Wood came up with when she co-founded The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) back in 1990. She described ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”
So in my eyes, responsible tourism is travel to any area that helps to conserve the environment and makes the lives of locals better. In other words, to be truly “eco-friendly,” travel must benefit both the local ECOlogy and the ECOnomy. If it benefits the people financially, but endangers wildlife or destroys ecosystems, it’s not truly sustainable. If it contributes to preserving and protecting the natural environment, but locals are not made financial stakeholders in the project or business’ success, it’s not truly sustainable.
And, back to my original point, the travel experiences that meet these requirements change over time. Swimming with captive dolphins and riding elephants were once considered fine ecotourism activities, but now– thanks to scientific research– we know that both are damaging to the animals. The key for the travel industry is to follow these developments closely and, once you know better, you do better. Staying ahead of the curve of what’s considered responsible tourism is the best way to ensure a sustainable business in the long-term.
Bret Love & Mary Gabbett – https://greenglobaltravel.com
There is no simple definition of responsible travel. Essentially the concept involves being an ethical traveller, both through your environmental contribution and your attitude to different cultures and people. Generally, it involves attempting to limit the detrimental environmental impact of your global movement and instead, make your travels positively benefit the planet and others. There are plenty of ways in which you can do this, whether it is investing in ethical attractions or reducing your use of single-use plastic.
As somebody who loves to travel, I look for ways to extend my trips so that I can travel for longer on the money I have. Instead of booking two flights on a two week holiday, I will book one flight, travel for a month and use local transport to get to my next destination. Having the luxury of time means that you can lessen the impact of your travels by avoiding flights and choosing public transport as your main way to get around.
This is one form of slow travel, something which can be highly beneficial to both the environment and local communities. To elongate my trips on a budget, I try to volunteer and give something back to the places I visit. This not only extends my trips but also helps me make a difference in people’s lives.
Sheree Hooker – wingingtheworld.com
What is responsible/sustainable tourism? Think of it as “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit”. Conversely, it’s visiting a place and attempting to make zero negative impact getting there, being there, or returning from there. Be inspired by the travel mantra “leave only footprints”. Consider what you are eating (is it locally sourced?). Limit what rubbish you leave behind (is it recyclable?). Where are you staying? (does the money you spend stay local or are you instead of giving your money to a large multinational company?).
Is the destination, near or far, already suffering from over-tourism? Could you choose a less crowded location when making your travel plans? Do you actually need to travel overseas in the first place when there are countless places to visit in your own country; many even within easy reach of your own home town. “One person’s other side of the world is another person’s backyard” and all that after all. Someone in New Zealand might see visiting the leafy towns and villages of Hertfordshire as a “trip of a lifetime”. You may already live there. Staying local can be just as rewarding and certainly more environmentally friendly than travelling to a country much further away.
Steve Biggs – https://biggsytravels.com
Responsible tourism is 100% within your control when you travel. It means being a conscious traveller, fully aware that your actions and choices can have a massive impact on people, animals, communities, and the environment. The outcome of your actions is what makes your travel sustainable or not. Examples include:
1: Environmental choices such as picking up your garbage, asking if there is recycling and saying no to plastic bags and straws. Research places to go in low season, or that aren’t facing over-tourism, you have the power to distribute your tourism money responsibly.
2. Community-based travel is responsible travel, such as asking where your tourism dollars are going and buying local products and services to help tourism thrive in the area for its local families.
3 People: Recognizing your privilege to be able to travel, unlike many people you will encounter. Avoid showing off your things, and instead, make efforts to connect with locals with a few words in their language, learn about their customs and their challenges. It also means being careful with how you photograph, not exploiting children, and respecting people by asking for that next perfect Instagram pic.
4. Animals – Do your research and ask questions so that no cruelty to animals on tours and park visits. The best way to be responsible? Ask questions, and think about how your actions and your money can impact both positively and negatively.
Enjoy your travels and represent your country well, as a respectful global citizen.
Dorene Wharton – https://www.travellifex.com/
Responsible travel or Sustainable travel is more than a way of travelling: it is a philosophy. It’s not only about carbon emissions but also about ethics and responsible choices.
When we want to take a responsible holiday, not only we want to reduce our impact on the resources of the planet, we also want that all decisions made will help the destination and its inhabitants. From the food we eat to the luggage we take with and to the accommodation and transportation we choose, everything has a role to play. When we go to a restaurant, we look for one that provides local food and that also offers different diet options accessible to every need (gluten-free, FODMAP diet, vegan, etc).
When we go to a bar or a café, we don’t want to see any plastic straws. When choosing accommodation, we want to see lots of initiatives that reduce our footprint but also take responsibility for the locals, pay and treat their employees well. When we choose transportation, we prefer the train and if we take a flight, we prioritize companies taking green actions, and we make sure the duration of the trip is worth it. We also travel light and pack fewer plastics. If we can, we travel slow, offseason and in less crowded places.
It can seem complicated at first. But it quickly becomes a habit in our day to day life that we simply extend to our holidays.
I’m Ella from World Travel Able www.worldtravelable.com My goal is to inspire people to travel no matter their health challenges, in a slow and ecofriendly way.
Have you ever had a tourist attraction or activity in your town or city and been so proud of it, that you always show it to out-of-town friends or relatives whenever you can? Having pride in your community or neighbourhood (or town or city) is one of the goals of any council or destination management company. Feeling good about the historical landmarks, religious and cultural tolerance, transport links, shops, nightlife and restaurants is the direct result of the local people taking responsibility and ownership for it. They value what they have.
Responsible tourism is based upon a set of values that all stakeholders agree to and put constructive plans in place to ensure there is a long-term benefit to the community, the environment and the visitors. These values can and should be reviewed, but not as often as the tasks needed to ensure that they aren’t compromised.
For my holiday-making friends who stay in my community, I want you to treat the area as if it was your own (in a respectful way). I want you to go away from the destination better than you arrived. Either more knowledgeable or more refreshed. Or both. If you spend money, I would like you to spend it at a local store or business where the money remains in my community. I want you to want to come back next year or for your children to come back and have the same amazing experience.
Unfun fact: Did you know that for cruise-boat tourists who visit the Galapagos Islands, only 7% of the monies paid, stays on Galapagos Islands.
Paul Ryken – https://MinimalistJourneys.com
At the root of responsible or sustainable tourism is respect. More specifically, acting and making decisions grounded in respect for the local environment, local people and culture and local economy. This means travelling and making decisions in a way that makes the place where you are visiting better for the local people who live there. For example, deliberately making travel decisions so that your money stays local and supports the local communities and businesses you are visiting – e.g., choosing to stay at locally-owned hotels, eat at local restaurants, buy souvenirs or handicrafts from local artisans, or finding guides or tours that are locally owned or invest in the community.
This also means being conscious of the environmental impact of your travels on the places you visit – e.g., use of water and other natural resources or the additional plastic, food and other waste generated by your trip. When it comes to engaging and interacting with local people, remember that you are a guest in someone else’s home and respect the local culture and traditions that come with that.
Responsible or sustainable tourism not only helps conserve nature and culture and provides socio-economic benefits to the local communities we visit, but it also usually creates a greater connection to those places and people. This leads to more enriching and meaningful travel experiences for everyone.
Audrey Scott – https://uncorneredmarket.com
I think Responsible Tourism and Sustainable Tourism are two different (but related) things. Responsible Tourism means paying attention to the social and economic impact of your actions abroad. Ironically even when people think they’re helping, they could be doing more harm than good. For example, giving money to a child on the street might seem like the right thing to do, but what if you discovered that the child you innocently gave money to had been pulled out of school by their parents because the child could support the family by begging and that you just perpetuated that problem? Responsible Travel involves educating yourself and treading very sensitively and carefully in the places you visit.
Sustainable Tourism (to my view) is more about the ecological and environmental impact of travel and minimizing that impact. Carbon offsets are an obvious way to reduce the impact of travel, but it goes much deeper than that. I personally travel with a zero-waste kit that means I don’t generate any single-use waste when I travel (or at home for that matter). It requires some preparation, a little gear, and a dose of discipline, and the results are very personally rewarding.
One of the biggest trends for 2020 is sustainable travel. As solo travellers, many of us tend to do this automatically. If you use local transport, dine at local restaurants and travel overland then you’re already doing your bit for sustainable travel. In a nutshell, it’s about funnelling your tourism dollars back into local communities. Many may argue if we should be travelling at all but with tourism being a trillion-dollar industry, people are always going to travel; we just need to do it in the right way. Sustainable and responsible travel is about being responsible for the world that we live and travel in.
To travel sustainably means to think about our actions long-term. Buying a plastic bottle of water versus taking a water filter with you to avoid waste is a great example of being sustainable. Ensuring that your tourism dollars go to local people instead of large corporations is another example. To do this just think local: buy from local shops, book tours through locals and dine at independent restaurants. Look for social impact restaurants such as Shayona in Cape Town who give back to charitable organisations in South Africa. Find tour companies and accommodation that have their own foundations such as Mad Monkey Hostels who help provide clean water to rural villages in Cambodia. Being a responsible and sustainable traveller is easier than you may think.
Lisa – Girl about the Globe
Isn’t it great that travelling the world has become more accessible, easier, and less expensive? But if there’s one major disadvantage to this growth in the travel industry, it’s overtourism.
What is overtourism? In short, it refers to the negative impacts of tourism and having too many tourists in one destination. Some of these negative influences include:
- Overcrowded streets and public transport, disturbing the every-day life of the local community.
- An increase in rent prices because of the popularity of holiday rentals.
- Overcrowded historical landmarks, physically damaged by the masses.
You can see all of these things in places like Venice, Dubrovnik, the Taj Mahal, and many other places around the world. And it doesn’t help that social media encourages you to visit the exact same destinations, making the problem even worse. It’s such a big issue that the locals desperately want tourists to leave. In Barcelona, for example, there are signs all around the city with the writing ‘Tourists, go away!’.
If you want to be a more responsible traveller, start with choosing an alternative destination. Instead of Spain’s Barcelona, visit Valencia, Salamanca, or Zaragoza. Instead of Italy’s Venice, visit Bologna, Bergamo, or Trento. You can also plan a trip to underrated countries like Poland or Romania that are tourist-friendly but have yet to be discovered by masses of tourists. I can assure you that you won’t be bored and that each one has plenty of interesting things to offer.
To me, responsible tourism is about love and respect. It’s about loving our planet and the destinations we visit by not harming them with our travels. This can be achieved by thinking of the local people first: booking accommodation owned by them, seeking local food vendors, and going on tours managed by local people. It’s also important not to treat them as photo opportunities or in any way ‘other’ than yourself: they’re not subjects for your exploration, they’re people equal to you, living in their home town. Striking up conversations with locals is the best way to get to know them, and supporting local people with your travel income ensures that your stay benefits the community, not foreign investors.
Also, considering local the environment by not disturbing historic sites and wildlife is important, and is a loving act rather than a destructive one. Many tourists don’t want to follow the path so they can get a better photo, or assume they can disturb animals or feed them human food for their own special experience. These actions accumulate and have a very negative impact on wildlife behaviour, and they slowly but surely destroy both man-made and natural sites. Respecting the environment and all of its creatures may not bring the most Instagram-worthy pictures home, but it will allow other creatures to exist naturally and will safeguard beautiful places for others to enjoy, too.
Finally, responsible tourism is slow and immersive. To get to know people and explore without creating harm takes time, and is best done mindfully and without pressure. Travelling slowly also has the benefit of creating fewer carbon emissions than it would from flitting place to place, so it’s a much better way to travel.
Emma Walmsley – https://smallfootprintsbigadventures.com/
With so many ways to be a responsible traveller, you can travel to your heart’s content knowing that you are moving around in a sustainable way. For me having travelled extensively in Latin America, I have found staying with local families and learning the local language a great way to contribute to this phenomenon. It is actually quite simple to travel this way and the rewards that you reap not only impact local communities but also enhance and richen your experience as a traveller.
As a cultural traveller in Latin America, I have found that learning the language can save you from using unnecessary resources, for example driving miles in the wrong direction, staying in hotels that have air conditioning blasting all day long, to cutting back on your everyday consumption in ways you may never have imaged. An integral part of this is by learning the ways of the local people, many of which can be passed down when you are able to speak the local language. I invite you to consider this type of sustainable travel the next time you visit a foreign country with a view to being more responsible with your actions thus reducing the impact that your footprint has on the environment.
Daniel James – https://www.layerculture.com
There are lots of things that you can do to travel more responsibly and sustainably and, for us, it’s to slow travel. And before you say ‘oh, I can’t quit my job and go travelling like you, guys’, hear me out: slow travel is about a change in mindset. It’s about how you choose to travel rather than the length of your trip. Instead of giving in to the temptation of scoring cheap flights abroad, what about finally giving staycation a go? Or what if you dropped that crazy 10-countries-in-10-days plan just to explore one of these destinations properly?
By cutting down on unnecessary journeys, your holiday will end up cheaper and greener. “But, Milene, there are so many places and so little time…” I know, I know but don’t let FOMO take the reins of your travel plans! When you slow travel, you take time to enjoy things along the way rather than constantly worry about what’s next on a tight must-see schedule. It’s a win-win situation because, when we slow down, we open up to discover new, lesser-known destinations not yet hit by overtourism, which makes it a more responsible, sustainable and unique experience.
Milene – https://www.surfandunwind.com/
One of the most enjoyable ways to travel sustainably is by staying in small, family-run properties. Italy does this particularly well with its network of agriturismo holidays. An agriturismo is a farm which accepts paying guests. Accommodation might be in a hotel room or in a self-catering apartment, the latter is a popular option with families. The accommodation ranges hugely from very basic to quite luxurious but what makes this style of holidaying especially enjoyable is the hospitality.
Facilities also range: there might be a restaurant, a swimming pool or a small play area. At an agriturismo with a restaurant, you can expect excellent food which really has travelled zero miles to reach your plate. Most agriturismos will have a vegetable plot to feed their guests: fresh fruit, homemade cakes and jams. Some agriturismos produce wine, other farm animals for their meat. If you’re on steak, head to Tuscany. If lentils are more your thing, head to Le Marche. You’re guaranteed good local wine wherever you end up.
An agriturismo will typically only accommodate a handful of guests. Staff are often members of the extended family (frequently several generations are involved) or they are locally employed making this type of tourism low impact and beneficial on the local economy.
Annabel Kirk – https://smudgedpostcard.com/
Responsible and sustainable tourism is tourism that benefits the local people and other animals living in the destination and the environment in which they live. There are many choices we as tourists can make so that our travels become more sustainable. A few examples include: choosing local tour operators and family-run accommodations over larger companies; taking trains or buses instead of flying; and refraining from tourist attractions that exploit animals, such as riding elephants or taking selfies with tigers.
There’s one choice, though, that’s often overlooked, and yet it’s the most effective single thing we can do to minimize our environmental impact. I’m talking about choosing to eat more plant-based foods rather than animal-based foods when travelling. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of rainforest deforestation, water pollution, species extinction and ocean dead zones. By choosing foods that are less polluting and that require less land, water and other natural resources to produce, we are helping to preserve the beautiful natural landscapes we visit.
And it can also be a fun way to learn about other cultures by exploring their cuisines from a whole different angle. In Greece, for example, most tourists only know about gyros and souvlaki, and they miss out on the many plant-based dishes that are part of Greek cuisine. It was not until I visited Greece as a vegan that I learned about the fasting tradition in the Greek Orthodox Church (in this context, “fasting” means not eating meat, eggs or dairy) and the lasting effect it has had on Greece’s healthy traditional Mediterranean cuisine.
Wendy Werneth – The Nomadic Vegan
Have you ever thought of being “invisible” during your travels? For me, responsible and sustainable tourism means blending in as best as possible whilst travelling to minimise any negative impacts tourism has on locals and their communities. This extends to choosing your accommodation wisely.
With the steep rise in global tourism in recent years, demand has increased for cheap accommodation. Homestay services such as Airbnb were once a great way to stay with a local and have a more authentic travel experience.
Unfortunately, its popularity led to people and large corporations abusing the system, buying up local properties in bulk for the sole purpose of using them as short-term vacation rentals. Doing this enabled them to charge higher rents than what they could receive from long-term local residents.
In cities suffering from overtourism such as Lisbon, Barcelona and Paris to name a few, these homestays popping up in unzoned areas meant rental prices for locals were driven up. Locals who needed to live in the city were now competing with tourists for accommodation. In more extreme cases, locals were driven out from their own cities as rental prices became wildly unaffordable. Is this what we want for locals?
When selecting where to stay, consider choosing traditional B&Bs, hotels or hostels that are regulated and in areas zoned for tourists. If you insist on using services like Airbnb, ensure it is legal in the city you’re visiting and research whether the host actually resides at the property.
After all, as tourists, we should be supporting locals, not make their lives more difficult!
Responsible tourism to me is all about leaving as small footprints as possible through respecting the locals, the wildlife, and the environment when you travel. They are all connected, but there are a few simple rules of thumb you can apply to your travel habits to become a more responsible traveller.
To respect the locals, show respect to their customs and act as a visitor. Also, you could try to learn a few simple phrases in their language and show curiosity. Other ways, are for instance to not contribute to overtourism by travelling to popular tourist destinations offseason, and be mindful about the accommodation you choose.
When it comes to wildlife, it is important to not disturb wild animals, not feed them, or harm them in any way. But it is just as important to not attend any unethical animal tourism like riding donkeys, visiting zoos or taking selfies with wild animals. Even though these activities often bring money to the locals, wildlife is often taken from the wild, tortured and maltreated only to entertain tourists.
Finally, let’s look at the environment! Simple ways of respecting the environment are to not throw rubbish into nature and rather pick up some pieces instead. Also, minimize your plastic usage and bring a reusable filtered water bottle on your trip instead of buying single-use plastic water bottles in the shop.
It is always important to think about the consequences of your actions. Even though one action can be positive to one of the three areas, it might be negative to another.
Linn Haglund – https://brainybackpackers.com/
Where some responsible tourism aims to minimise negative impacts, for Earth Changers creating any negative impacts is not really good enough: We research & showcase the best positive impact, transformative, sustainable tourism for people to find & book trips that truly change the world. We feature life-changing places, with world-changing people, for extraordinary experiences with purpose.
Local people want tourists to visit and share their culture, and they still want to develop their places, but they don’t want the negative impacts of exploitative tourism inconsiderately imposed on them historically.
We only feature tourism which supports communities through the sustainable development goals locally: Poverty, health, education, infrastructure, food, water, life on land and under-water, equality, partnerships and peace, as well as of course jobs and fair benefits.
It’s about ensuring local people and places have responsibility for the tourism decisions and aren’t disempowered by outsiders, and that the money from tourism goes to them, the hosts, not the outside organisations renting their places.
But more sustainable tourism also means visitors have an incredible time, with better value on their trip: staff are happy and supported, food is fresher and organic, construction and decor is local, the environment in safeguarded, biodiversity is abundant and experiences are cultural and authentic.
For truly sustainable tourism, Earth Changers’ unique destination stories fully demonstrate commitment to sustainable tourism for communities, conservation and climate.
Vicky Smith – https://www.earth-changers.com/
One of the best ways to explore a destination is through its food. But, there is a way to eat your way through a city in a more sustainable way. Although there is a growing farm-to-table movement all over the world and a goal for many chefs to find more sustainable sources of food, there’s more to it than that when it comes to food travel.
The best tip we can give people is to try to find the most local food and drink you can when travelling. This means trying the local or regional specialities, not just the generic dishes that are most associated with a country. For example, Spain has a regional cuisine. You shouldn’t be eating paella and sangria all over the country. First off, sangria was invented in NYC so it’s hardly local at all. Second, paella is a regional rice dish most associated with Valencia. Don’t order paella elsewhere in the country. Chances are paella in Seville is shipped in, frozen, and reheated for tourists.
Instead, order local specialities like the cold tomato soup salmorejo or cazon en adobo, a local marinated fried fish. Similarly, don’t order Sangria or even the most popular Spanish wine, Rioja. Rioja is shipped from the popular wine region in Northern Spain all over the country, even to the Canary Islands. Unsuspecting tourists might order Rioja because they are familiar with it. Instead, ask for a glass of the local wine. In Seville, that means sherry. In the Canary Islands, that means fabulous local wines from Lanzarote and Tenerife. By ordering as local as possible, you are supporting local businesses and shortening the food and drink supply chain.
Amber from Food And Drink Destinations
There are many layers to responsible travel. As someone whose main motivation for travelling is to see wildlife, for me it means to do no harm to animals on this planet. And better yet, actually, help them.
Unfortunately, these days many animals get exploited for the tourism industry. Take elephant riding as an example. In order to tame a wild elephant, it has to be tied down and beaten until their spirits are broken and they’re willing to obey their “trainers” to avoid pain. It’s a cruel process that is still used today because tourists are willing to pay to ride an elephant. Interactive experiences with captive animals usually come with a huge cost to the animal.
Does this mean you should avoid wildlife tourism all-together? Absolutely not! As travellers, we can make a huge impact in the lives of animals by choosing where to spend our money. Do a bit of research, and book with a tour operator who holds a responsible tourism charter or policy.
Simply put, wildlife should be left wild. If a tour operator is offering riding, feeding, touching any altering of natural behaviour, look somewhere else. There are still plenty of opportunities to see wildlife in national parks and ethical sanctuaries. If you have the time, volunteering on a wildlife conservation project can make a huge impact in the lives of animals.
Lora Pope – Explore With Lora
Travel is an incredible life experience and it’s more attainable now than it’s ever been. However, the more we travel the more we may unknowingly cause damage to the environment. But we humans are curious by nature and it would be impossible for us to stop exploring altogether. So it’s important to be an informed traveller, especially when it comes to travelling responsibly and sustainably.
The good news is that it’s a lot easier than it seems. The first step is to be mindful of the trips you take and choose your destinations carefully. More sustainable modes of travel are by train or bus, as they typically produce fewer carbon emissions than flying. However, if you do need to fly, consider buying a carbon offset (just be sure you’re doing this in addition to other eco-friendly travel changes).
Limit your plastic waste by having a travel-ready kit of reusable products like toiletries and cutlery. Keep in mind you’re engaging in a cultural exchange when you travel. Read up on the destination you’re travelling to, learn about the customs and respect them, support local businesses, and make sure you’re not littering in or damaging the natural environment you temporarily inhabit.
It’s easy to be a sustainable and responsible traveller, and hopefully, many of you already are. Adopting these values could allow us to protect the world and its people. After all, isn’t the whole point of travel to discover and connect with this beautiful planet we call home?
Marie Bernais – http://mariebernais.com/
For me, sustainable tourism means that people can visit popular destinations without leaving a mark on them. It wouldn’t be fair to the next generations if we just destroyed some of the most beautiful places in the world by visiting them too much.
A good philosophy to keep in mind when visiting a place is “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”. And probably the footprint part is not the best outcome for some more endangered environments.
As an example, I’d like to offer Elafonissi beach in Crete, Greece. It’s famous for the pink sand and the magically blue colour of the surrounding waters. The extraordinary pink colour of the sand is mainly caused by tiny red organisms that grow on the dead coral reefs.
Each year, thousands of tourists visit the famous Elafonissi beach to enjoy its beauty, go for a swim, and walk around the shallow waters. And even if everyone is careful not to disturb the surroundings too much, it’s inevitable that some of the pink sand will be carried away on shoes, towels, pockets, or even intentionally taken as a free souvenir. And that probably would be ok if only a few people visited the beach. But if this is multiplied by the count of tourists that visit the place, it might endanger the whole pink sand beach, as the sand might not regenerate as fast as people are taking it away. And that’s not sustainable, as the beach is slowly destroyed by the people who go there to marvel at it.
Una – wandernity.com
A great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to pay attention to your means of transportation. Obviously walking or cycling are the most environmental-friendly options, but no one expects you to go around the world on foot or on wheels. What you can do is to fly less, ideally switching to trains.
Trains are much more sustainable than aeroplanes, cars and buses in terms of CO2 emissions, energy consumption, use of space and noise levels. Together with being a more responsible traveller, a train ride will allow you to see more of the country you’re visiting, and it will be a perfect place to do some people watching, and even make new friends -both locals and fellow travellers.
If you have to fly, you can carbon offset your trip. This means to donate a small amount of money to compensate for your emissions to an organization that works in conservation or renewable energy. Also try to get direct flights, since takeoffs and landings create the most carbon emissions. The last tip is to keep the plastic containers of the food you receive. Most airlines don’t recycle, so you can do it when you arrive at your destination.
Coni from Experiencing the Globe
Responsible Tourism for me is choosing what to eat and where to eat it when travelling. We all know that food is part of what makes a trip more enjoyable and very often it is also the thing we remember the most from our trips. The main problem is that the more mainstream the places we go to are, the less sustainable the food we eat is. Assuming that we cannot do much to change things from a strategical point of view, we can contribute to advocating on our food choices do impact tourism.
Supporting local farmers & local food business is fundamental, and so it is eating seasonally; the more we can eat locally, the more we can contribute to the amount of energy used to transport food and the more we eat in a sustainable way, the more we help the production of food in a socially responsible manner. We cannot change the way big corporations think about food and food tourism, but we can advocate for a better idea of connecting with locals through food, so to help the environment and the local economy.
Veruska – The Foodellers
As seeing how our planet and resources are declining, changing the way we travel comes in a crucial time. It is no longer about visiting fancy places and deepening our impact; right now, it is about developing conscious travelling.
From cycling in Central Asia alongside a shrinking ecosystem to living in Malaysia under the toxic haze caused by the slash-and-burn practices to destroy large sections of forests, I have seen what corporate greed and human choices can lead to. By finding ways to see the world, the best way is to find carbon-neutral ways to explore. With a train ride or adventure tourism via bicycle touring and hiking, you exchange miles for views and meet communities that are often sped past, only to stop and hear them speak about how they’re making a living, bringing about a change in small ways. It would be great if we could be selective with our travels and deliberately seek projects via community-based tourism travels that fortify change and meaningfulness.
It’s certainly not about living a life of unrealistic misery or limiting travel. On the contrary, it’s about reaching a higher level of understanding and consciousness about what we’re doing and how we can be creative in seeing the world.
By Pashmina, The Gone Goat
I understand everyone likes to travel to popular tourist destinations instead of always travelling to offbeat places. It is natural human psychology and if you also want to travel to popular destinations, it is all right. While planning a trip we should be more mindful about the time of travel. This can be our first step towards responsible travel.
Plan your trip during shoulder-season or offseason. If you don’t know what is shoulder-season then it is the period between the “best time to visit” and “off-season” for a destination. For example, if you are travelling to Goa beaches in India then December and January is the best time to visit. While May to August is the off-season, so visit anytime between these two seasons.
During the high season, resources fall short to meet the requirement of travellers due to big crowds. Which affects the ecology of the place and strains the life of local communities.
In the last few years, I have travelled a lot during shoulder-season to popular destinations. By doing this I did my bit to avoid over-tourism in a destination. It is not only better for local resources but also for us a traveller. We will get better hotel tariffs, lesser crowds at monuments & other public places.
By the end of the day, it is good for the destination as well you also get a good experience by spending lesser money.
Sapna – Beaches of Goa
As the number of travellers visiting any country soar every year, the need to understand how we can travel in a sustainable manner is more important than travelling.
Everyone’s definition of responsible tourism is different. For me, responsible tourism is more than just supporting local people financially or by purchasing their services and products. Travelling responsibly means that we understand the local culture and its rules. If the local community is letting tourists into their ecosystem, tourists should also spend time with the people to understand the reasoning behind their customs, even though sometimes those local practices might seem strange.
Instead of smirking at regional practices or ridiculing the choices of local people, travellers should talk to them. If the opinions of the outsiders differ from the locals, then they can express their viewpoint. In this unbiased manner, two-way communication and exchange of culture can be promoted. These unprejudiced conversations will not only help break the ice but will also help develop warmth in the local community towards travellers.
Travelling doesn’t only mean that we go to place, admire the landscapes, eat delicious food, click pictures, and create memories. Traveling also implies that the people who meet us should also have some good impressions of us when we leave. So that they are excited to host another set of curious travellers from around the world. Responsible travel is the only way for a sustained travel ecosystem.
Priyanka – On My Canvas
If you want to visit popular over-touristed sites like Kotor, Dubrovnik, or Santorini, there are two ways to do it that can make it much more responsible. The first is to travel independently and avoid using a cruise ship. While yes, there are some people who need to use cruise ships to travel, for those who can travel independently it’s much better for these destinations to come on your own.
Because you will spend more money and time in the area when you travel on your own, you’re much more likely to have a positive impact on the places you visit. Many people who travel by cruise ship spend no money in the places they visit (or very little). So they participate in the maximum amount of disruption and congestion while contributing back the least.
For example, you can spend two days in Mykonos or three days in Santorini and actually contribute to the local economy, instead of coming for just a few hours and taking up space.
You can make independent travel even more beneficial by coming during the off-season or shoulder season. This way you can contribute to the year-round businesses that help support locals living in these over-touristed spots year-round. It also ensures that your money goes to companies that are invested in the location, and not to companies that come in for the high season and close up shop when the tourists leave.
Stephanie – sofiaadventures.com
No longer an option, sustainable tourism, and responsible travel are in my opinion the only possible way to move forward in this industry. In any case, the biggest challenge those of us who have spent a lifetime travelling face these days is how to continue doing so without causing a disproportionate carbon footprint. Because, make no mistake we, tourists, business travellers, and what not – are a privileged bunch that does not represent the rest of the world. A small percentage among the immensity of the world population, whose vast majority – at least those who inhabit the earth today – will never catch a plane.
The problem is that, as much as we want things to change, until governments and big business do not do their homework in this area, it is our job to study how – and if we should at all – travel. That is why, for a few years, before embarking on any trip we have been asking ourselves if we should visit that area of the planet. And if the way to do it makes sense.
Do not have FOMO with the planet or travelling. I had it when I was younger and believe me, it is possible to overcome it. There is no planet B and there will be no FOMO in the world to help us when it is not habitable.
So the next time you put a destination on your list, stop and think about how you will get there, if you will take enough advantage of the time (avoid crossing half the world for a few days) and how you will use your money to make a difference.
I have been travelling all over the world for the past 18 years and have visited some wonderful places, however, tourism is not always as responsible as it could be.
I love to immerse myself in different cultures when travelling abroad, however, when visiting local villages and places of worship tourists need to ensure they are as respectful as they would be back home. For example, would you walk up to a stranger or even worse a young child in the UK and point a camera in their face without asking! I have witnessed other travellers blazingly taking photos of breastfeeding mothers in local tribes without even giving it a second thought! Please don’t be that person and If you see someone or something that belongs to another person please ask permission before clicking that camera. Everyone is entitled to their own privacy wherever you are in the world.
Aside from travelling, scuba diving is one of my biggest hobbies, however, if not practised correctly it can have a huge impact on our oceans along with global warming and plastic pollution. What can we do as individuals to help? Avoid detrimental diving experiences such as great white cage diving, do not harass or chase critters for that “perfect” underwater shot, keep your fins away from fragile corals and most importantly, no matter how pretty that shell may look, leave it where it belongs.
Although as travellers we need to be more responsible in our actions, companies are also starting to reflect this. For example, the guides and porters you see on any gorilla trek in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda are usually an ex-poacher that has been given a second chance and retrained into protecting rather than killing these magnificent creatures! This helps local communities engage and benefit from tourism as opposed to it being a hindrance.
Let’s all do our bit to be more responsible travellers.
Michelle Attard – www.coconutodyssey.com
For me, travel is all about the human connection, to know their passion projects, to learn about their art and craft, often dying in the face of rising pressure from conglomerates. I know my purpose is served if even one person seeks out more information on the indigenous art forms. A bridge is established between newer trends and heritage.
In ancient cities like Yangon, Hanoi, Cairo or Kolkata, I prefer to tag along with a group of locals who will take me to the hidden alleys of the urban area and unfold layers of history. If that gets coupled with a food walk, there is nothing quite like it! These walks are usually run by passionate city dwellers who want to preserve nooks and corners of a city’s heritage, often from wasteful development of real-estate.
I am an Indian woman, and I love wearing a Saree. Not the fancy Bollywood variants, I am talking about the loom woven sarees, that often adorn Indian epics on their Palla (the flying end worn over the shoulder). I love how Silver Jari sits pretty by the border of these sarees.
For example, Baluchari. The silk jari sarees are woven on the sandbanks of Murshidabad, Bengal (sand banks= Balu Chor) and tell the stories of Ramayana. In an obscure village named Karaikudi in Tamilnadu, craftsmen inscribe the ships and trading practice on Saree borders alongside the temple, in memory of a once sprawling trading town. Pathan Patolas of Gujrat bring in precision and geometry in the saree weaves, these are basically pieces of art and perform a compelling art of storytelling.
Hard-work and generational know-how goes behind making these. Some of the sarees take even a year to finish off. In the age of fast fashion and machine looms, weavers find it difficult to find a shelf for their products in the urban consumption channels. Yet, they have survived years of indifference and lack of patronage and lived up to heritage. Take, for example, the Muslin weave. Once the finest piece of clothing to be exported to the west, the weavers had their thumbs cut off during British Raj so that cotton Mills found a way to prosper. Today, a handful of villagers have resisted the change and kept the secret alive. Muslin is making a come back in mainstream fashion, often mixed with other natural fabrics.
I have travelled to far-flung Indian villages in pursuit of these fine weaves and fabrics and have returned with astonishing tales. Learning from rural India, I sought after the fabric stories in other countries as well. I was intrigued by seeing tribal women of Sa Pa villages in Vietnam colouring their skirts with organic Indigo. The Chinese silk with trademark pattern felt a bit more “Silkier” in Thailand. Bright hues of African nomads easily made way to traditional colourful headgear and fabrics in Eastern Africa. Acknowledging these art forms of fabrics and channelizing a bit of an effort to talk about them can help them survive and get due to recognizance in the world stage, which in my honest opinion, is the least we can do!
Madhurima Chakraborty – orangewayfarer.com
Responsible tourism is a mindset, a way of travelling mindfully. Because we worry that current travel practices damage the environment. So much so that the planet won’t support it much longer.
It’s also a promise: respect for local cultures, for the people we meet, for their way-of-life. It’s about choosing to see attractions in a way that is the least harmful to the local communities and their direct environment.
The bare minimum we can do as responsible tourists is to limit our environmental impact on a trip. For example, we carry reusable bags and bottles and refuse plastic; we choose locally sourced food over imports and local businesses over large ones.
The time is over for polluting and disrespectful tourism. For a sweep-through way of “seeing” places without understanding them, of mindlessly ticking off the tourist sites on a bucket-list.
Instead, we want to make a difference by choosing responsible tour operators, going with local guides, learning something about and from the local culture.
It’s not difficult to be a conscious traveller. Everyone can do it just by changing their habits a little bit. By opening up to the life of the country. Being a responsible traveller often goes together with saving money too.
There are more and more responsible travel tips on the internet, it’s easy to get informed. It’s easy to be mindful. Nobody asks you to be perfect from day 1 – just to open up. Will you?
Anna + Anthony at GreenMochila.com
Our earth consists of over 70% of water which makes it vital to our lives and means we need to protect our oceans and water sources. Too often we take clean drinking water for granted as many us simply have to open a tap. We don’t think about its scarcity in certain parts of the world, how we are all connected, and that we need to each do our part to keep it clean.
As an avid scuba diver, I often get to look below the surface, quite literally, and see the often unfortunate state our oceans are in. For me, plastic pollution, global warming, and the decreasing marine life are not abstract concepts but something I get to experience firsthand when diving. All too often I arrive in a beautiful place and descend in the water only to be greeted by plastic bags floating around, animals trapped in fishing lines, and washed out coral graveyards with little life.
This has left me with a newfound sense of responsibility when I travel and I try to be more sustainable on the road and at home. From drastically cutting down my plastic consumption thanks to a filter water bottle and eating less meat to using solid shampoo and reef-friendly sunscreen when I go in the water. These are small ways to help the environment which can have a significant impact if we all were to implement those little sustainable changes into our lives. Best reward? Diving or snorkelling on a healthy reef with plenty of Nemos, turtles, and beautiful sharks to see what we are all fighting for.
Annika Ziehen – The Midnight Blue Elephant
Travel is more accessible than it’s ever been before, but there are MAJOR social and environmental implications of so many people getting out there to explore. These impacts are being felt in World Heritage Cities and National Parks alike. In the most dramatic cases, ancient ruins are eroding under excessive foot traffic and species are becoming extinct. But there are also more subtle instances of change, and I think these are the ones we as individual travellers should be extra conscious of.
The truth is that responsible travel is a holistic way of considering and consciously reducing your overall impact on the places you travel. It touches everything you do.
Decisions like which place you choose for lunch (local is best). Whether you drink from a glass bottle or a plastic cup (glass, if they recycle!). Whether you take the train or fly (trains are slightly better here). Which neighbourhood you stay in (not the main tourist area). How close you get to the wildlife (not close) and whether you choose to feed them (never!). Even who you choose to talk to on the street can have an impact.
Choose an alternative destination rather than one you know is overcrowded. Find companies that respect the environment, and do your part too. Go local.
The best questions to ask yourself are: am I supporting the livelihood and interest of locals with this decision? Would I like it if someone did this in my home? Really consider the impacts of your visit and make choices that align. When you do, you’re well on your way to travelling more responsibly.
Taylor – traveloutlandish.com
Ask yourself: If every tourist acted exactly the way I do, how would my destination look a decade from now? Would it have a thriving local economy and pristine environment, or would it be overrun by international corporations and littered with trash?
It’s easy for travellers to think that our individual decisions don’t matter – we’re just one person, after all. But responsible tourism means travelling with an awareness of the impact that each of our choices has on the places we visit.
Do you seek out locally-owned accommodations so that your tourist money stays in the local community? Are you thinking about which tours you take so that you don’t harm the local wildlife (like riding elephants or posing with tigers)? If you’re volunteering abroad, do you research thoroughly beforehand to make sure you’re not accidentally causing more harm than good? Do you make an effort to minimize your carbon footprint while you’re on the road?
The choices we make as travellers matter. Where we stay, what we buy, and how we interact with locals all have a long-term effect on the places we visit. So use that power wisely!
Emily – Two Dusty Travelers
There is some great advice here, it might seem a lot to take in and implement but in reality, most of it is common sense. Respect the people, their culture and the places they live. Observe animals in their natural environment and help protect the planet by travelling more mindfully.
Check out our other posts on Responsible Tourism Below:
Why The Balearic Islands Are At The Forefront Of Sustainable Tourism – Read why the Balearic Islands are leading the way in Sustainable Tourism practices.
Elephant Rides in Thailand – A better alternative – Are you thinking of going on one of the many elephant rides in Thailand? Click here to read our story and find a much better alternative instead.
Sleeping in a homestay in Thailand – Read about our amazing experience of sleeping in a homestay in Thailand. Village life was simple but beautiful and we can’t wait to try it again.
Celebrating Sustainable Travel With Intrepid Travel – Read why Intrepid Travel is one of our favourite travel companies & why you should love them too.