What is responsible travel
Responsible travel is to be socially, culturally and environmentally aware when we travel. This includes awareness during the travel period as well as our destination. By using responsible practices we can make a positive impact in local communities, wildlife and the environment. Being a responsible traveller isn’t easy. Even in our every day lives we need to make a conscious effort to remind ourselves to buy local produce, use public transport more often, bring your own bag… No one goes green in one day, and obviously, no one becomes the ultimate-responsible traveller overnight. Changing the way we operate is a continuous process that requires both practice and research.
How can irresponsible travel be harmful?
I think it is best if I explain this with an example:
We go to a souvenir shop in our holiday destination and we buy a souvenir. This souvenir is made out of animal skin of an endangered species, but we don’t know that. If a lot of people continue to support this kind of business, the consequences can be devastating in the long term. Two examples that come to my mind are:
Ecosystem imbalances – animals losing their source of food, other species multiplying uncontrollably because of lack of predators, forced migrations because of lack of food.
Poaching – cruel animal hunting, people engaging in illegal activities which could result in negative consequences for an entire community.
Most of us don’t really think about these things when we are looking at souvenirs. After we learn about the negative consequences of our purchase, we probably feel bad about our actions, but there is little that we can do about it. (Well, we can still warn others!)
Working towards responsible travel
When our understanding of a certain topic increases, we gain more clarity on the bigger picture and our attitude towards it can change. In my personal opinion, most people in the world have good intentions and want to do the right thing. So, to come back to the example, had we read about the problems of animal poaching at our travel destination we would have chosen something different to buy. And even where to buy it. We could have bought hand made items by an artisan and promote local business or go to a certified fair trade shop.
If we research the place we are going to visit beforehand, we will be more prepared to make better decisions.
Ways in which you can become a responsible traveller
Let me share a few ideas to think about. You can reflect on how they apply in a place you will visit and what it looks like when we put them into practice.
– Hire tour operators that promote responsible tourism.
– Support local businesses, like accommodation, restaurants.
– Learn about local culture and practices and be respectful.
– Say no to non-humane wildlife activities and practices.
– Minimise your waste.
– Consider how you spend money: don’t over-bargain, don’t give to beggars.
It looks daunting…
I know… I´ve been there. All I can say is start simple. Start at home, then the habits you develop will be easier to practice when you travel. For example, carrying a reusable bottle of water so that you don’t have to buy a plastic bottle every time. Before you know it, you will be carrying your bottle with you everywhere. Simple actions when you travel can be, for example, choosing activities that don’t disturb wildlife. Starting with something little is the biggest step.
I hope my posts about ethical travel will give you useful information to make an educated decision during your travels.
My question to you: What do you do to be a responsible traveller? What are you working on to become a better responsible traveller? Let me know in the comments!