The United Nations declared 2017 the Year of Sustainable Tourism, and the industry has made great steps forward since in promoting responsible tourism practices. While those 12 months were a great way to raise awareness, we need to keep that momentum going in 2018 and beyond.
What is responsible tourism?
Responsible tourism is all about thinking carefully and consciously about your journey, and making choices that benefit the local economy, environment and people. Responsible travel decisions might seem difficult to make, and may even seem to stop you from having any fun at all. However, from our personal experience, making responsible, conscious decisions while travelling brings you even closer to the true nature of the destination. By choosing your travel experiences responsibly, you’re helping to protect and preserve the culture and wildlife, grow the economy and strengthen the local community for the future.
Here are our top tips for being a responsible traveller, wherever your ventures may take you.
Shop locally and spend carefully
It’s easy to go overboard while shopping in local markets and malls while on holiday – we’ve all been there. But have you ever stopped to think about the origin of the item you’re purchasing? When it comes to souvenirs or trinkets, steer towards handmade crafts created by locals instead of the mass-produced items you see in larger shops. This also applies to food and eating out. Choosing a local, authentic eatery and local produce means you’ll not only be supporting the staff and business owner, but you’ll often get a more authentic taste of the local cuisine!
Venture Far Recommendation – Sardinia Gourmet Tour: Travel with a small group led by a local food expert and nutritionist who will guide you through the best and most authentic Sardinian culinary traditions. Stay at charming hotels, visit colourful markets and small producers, discover secret wine cellars, meet the locals and dine at amazing restaurants and unusual venues.
Learn about the local culture and history
While overseas, set some time aside to really delve into the local culture and learn about the history of the region. Learning something new will not only widen your general knowledge of the world, but it will open your eyes to new ways of living, and help you to understand the local customs and traditions. When you know more about the meaning behind some of the local customs and traditions, you’ll be better equipped to respect them.
Venture Far Recommendation – Sapa + Northern Highlands: Hike through rice terraces hidden in morning mist, visiting ethnic villages and enjoying panoramic views of the dips and peaks of the northern highlands known as the Tonkinese Alps.
Respect the local wildlife and environment
Responsible travel not only helps the local economy and community, but also conserves the natural environment and the wildlife that call it home. Make sure to be conservative in your use of precious resources such as water, and respect the rules of any local parks and reserves. If you come across any animals in the wild, give them plenty of space and try not to influence their movements or habitat. If you’re really keen on a close encounter with a furry local, make sure to visit an ethical conservation park or sanctuary that put the well-being of their animals above everything else.
Venture Far Recommendation – Sri Lanka Origins: Elephants are an integral part of local life in Sri Lanka. When festivities take to the streets, the elephants don bright costumes and parade alongside vibrant dancers and drummers. Every care is taken to ensure that all encounters are free from animal exploitation.
Reduce waste and recycle as much as possible
Before you set off on your travels, take a quick look at any plastics or packaging you’re taking with you. Think ahead: how much of this packaging will you end up throwing away along your journey? Waste is a huge worldwide issue, and tourism has it’s part to play in reducing the rate of waste production. By 2025, waste generated by towns, cities and municipal regions across the world is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes per year.
Recycling and waste in many developing countries is often unregulated or unmanaged. Even if recycling services are available, they can be difficult to understand or access. By taking reusable packaging for any toiletries or consumables when you travel, you can reduce the amount of waste you create and help to keep the planet a little bit cleaner.
Venture Far Recommendation – Wonders of Oregon: Discover waterfalls and green escarpments as you follow the historic Columbia River Highway in Oregon, USA. The unique splendour has been designated as a national scenic area.
Choose ethical, responsible hotels and travel providers
Do your research and select hotels and travel providers that give back to the community and the planet. Ask your hotel about their environmental and community engagement policies. Do they hire locals and give back to the community? Are they going above the minimum local requirements for water conservation? Find out about the environmental issues facing the local area and learn about how the local businesses are doing their bit to help out.
Venture Far Recommendation – Sukau Rainforest Lodge: Sukau Positioned on one of Borneo’s most important waterways, the Sukau Rainforest Lodge is a multi-award winning accommodation that’s been given the National Geographic stamp of approval.
Minimise your carbon footprint
Worldwide CO2 rates are increasing at an alarming rate. Recently, a study found that tourism was responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions from 2009 to 2013 – up to 4.5 tonnes of CO2 annually. By taking a few extra steps to minimise your own personal carbon footprint while travelling, you’ll be helping keep the plant healthier for years to come.
Although you might have to take a flight or two to reach your destination in the first place, see if your airline has a carbon offset project or fund which contributes to an environmental program or is used for purchasing carbon credits. When you arrive, opt for public transport such as buses, trains or trams instead of private taxis. If it’s a nice day, you could even take a relaxing walk or cycle to stretch your legs after your flight!
Venture Far Recommendation – The Portuguese Coastal Way: Follow the coast of Portugal from Baiona to Vigo, enjoying magnificent views of Illas Cies and its Natural Park. Walk, tram and train your way across this stunning landscape.
Share your travel story and spread the word
Your responsibility for ethical travel doesn’t end when your holiday does. Many travellers are unaware of the consequences of their decisions while on holiday, and you can help start a productive conversation while reminiscing about your own recent travels with friends and family.
When you get settled back home, you’ll be itching to tell everyone about what you discovered while abroad, and your friends and family will be only too eager to hear your stories. Share not only what you did on your holiday, but why you made those decisions and, most of all, what you learned. By sharing your tips and new knowledge, you can help to educate your friends and family about responsible travel practices. It’s only through this education and sharing of knowledge and stories that we’ll see true changes in behaviour for years to come.
Venture Far Recommendation – Lanna Kingdom – The Road Less Travelled: On this four-day journey, you’ll step back in time and hear stories of the history, culture and cuisine of Northern Thailand and the ancient kingdom that once ruled it.