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Responsible tourism or responsible travel has a certain reputation that is not always positive but it is actually really fun and easy to start travelling this way! It’s different than sustainable travel or sustainable tourism but they are related to each-other. This is the ultimate guide to responsible tourism with 20 tips to be a responsible traveller.
The meaning and definition of responsible travel is different than the meaning and definition of sustainable tourism. Responsible tourism is related to different factors like the animals, the culture, the local community and the environment. It’s a complete package of factors we deal with when we travel.
As I mentioned before, I want to focus more on travelling responsible on my blog and start a new movement: to travel and leave a positive impact on the destination. This is SO easy and it only needs a few small steps into your usual packing routine or travel routine. It does not mean you have to change your way of travelling. We can use the tips for responsible travel in Peru, the UK, in Cuba, Africa or Croatia; we can use it literally around the world. It’s possible to travel responsibly on every single destination.
The UNWTO wrote articles on sustainable development and responsible tourism. It highlights the requirements of sustainable tourism and responsible tourism and explains why these two are not synonyms for each other. The organization wrote an article on the responsible tourist and the importance of responsible tourism.
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The full guide to responsible tourism | 20 tips for being a responsible traveller
Pick the right tour companies who focus on socially responsible and eco-friendly tours to show you the destination. Focus on the ones who give a clear description on their website and give more information on how they provide their services in a responsible way!
2. Stay in an eco-friendly accommodation
Eco-friendly hotels are perfect to leave a positive impact on the destination. You will find all the tips in my blogpost with tips to choose an eco-friendly hotel. It’s so nice to stay in one of these: the experience is awesome and you’re doing something good for the planet while enjoying your stay!
3. Pick the “green choice” hotels
Other tips to include in your stay are to use the towels two days instead of 1 day, only use the light if you’re in your hotel (same with the air conditioning) and try to save water. These are easy to implement and most hotels already give information about it in their hotel rooms!
4. Start and get involved with volunteering on the destination
The official term for volunteering on the destination is called “voluntourism”. We can do this by building a school in an underdeveloped region or go clean the beaches if they are polluted with lots of plastic. One important thing to mention is you need to have some knowledge about what you’re doing. Some buildings are so poorly built, that the community still can’t use it. Think about your talent and what you are good at!
5. Stop using vehicles on short trips
Start walking, biking or use the public transportation instead of a car. Especially on smaller destinations! It depends on the destination but public transportation is usually pretty good. When I was on Madeira, me and my friend took the public bus to the capital city and we walked to our nearest locations. If it was too far, we took the bus again!
6. Say no to animal tourism
This is one I’m very strict about. I don’t support animal tourism in any way. I don’t go wash elephants. I don’t go to the monkey forest on Bali. I’m not going to a circus where they have performances with animals. It’s a big NO for me because most of these animals are tortured to lose their natural behaviour and start behaving after the rules of their owners. Baby elephants are tortured to learn the new tricks to show to the tourists. Say a very hard no to animal tourism.
7. Bring a reusable water bottle
I said this before in another blogpost about how to reduce your use of plastic. I recently bought a new water bottle! It’s made of glass and it has a special shield to keep the water cold during the summer. If you’re travelling to a destination where you can not drink the tap water: buy a water bottle with a filter. You can drink the tap water because the filter makes sure you won’t drink any of the bad stuff.
8. Don’t just take pictures and selfies of others
This is another point I mentioned in a previous blogpost about how to be a responsible traveller. We don’t like it if someone just shoves a camera in our face so it’s understandable others do not like it too. If you want to take a picture, kindly ask them!
9. Bring your own reusable cutlery
Some restaurants still use plastic cutlery, especially if you’re ordering take out. My top tip here is to bring your own cutlery so you can deny the plastic cutlery provided by the restaurant or food place. There are lots of light weight cutlery out there to take with you in a special container! I’d also suggest to bring your own metal or bamboo straws instead of using the plastic ones.
10. For women: try and use a mooncup if you can
Those pads we use when we’re on our menstrual cycle or the tampons are not the best for the environment. If you’re comfortable with it, you can try to use a mooncup. It’s easy to clean and obviously reusable so it’s more eco-friendly!
11. Shop locally
I mentioned this before in my blogpost about how to give back to the local community and that’s the tip to shop locally. An important term in the tourism industry is “leakage”. This means the money we spend during our holiday, leaks away out of the country to the bigger international firms. The local community will NOT benefit from this in any way. If we shop locally, we give the money directly to the local community.
12. Donate to local communities
Donating is one of the easiest things to do if you want to make a difference but don’t know how! Look around on your destination to see if there’s an organization providing invaluable services and fights for a good cause. Google is the perfect resource to find a local community as well! Find one that pulls on your heartstrings and makes you feel passioned about the cause.
13. Stop with over-bargaining
Somewhere along the way we all decided bargaining is the thing to do when we’re on a holiday. It’s not bad, but don’t over-bargain when you’re buying a purse on the Ubud market for example. Most of those people only have the income from selling their products and most of the time – the exchange rate is very beneficial for us which means: over-bargaining will only save you a couple of cents or a couple of dollars. Is it really worth it?
14. Seek out and choose authentic travel experiences
I just recently wrote a blogpost about this on how to create authentic travel experiences! The easiest way to this is to travel off the beaten path and explore less popular destinations without mass tourism and overcrowding. Go into the nature and truly back to the authenticity of the destination to fully experience every single moment! It will make your travel experience so much more valuable and create awesome travel memories. You will experience the destinations so perfectly if you start with slow travelling. Not sure how to start? This blogpost gives you the tips and reasons to start with slow travelling.
15. Leave no trace, only footprints
I hope this goes without saying but clean up your own trash on the destination. Don’t throw water bottles on the street or in the ocean. Plastic takes over 1.000 years to decompose, I can’t even wrap my head around how much time it costs to get rid of it. Clean up, throw it in the trashcan or save it until you’re in your accommodation because I know not all destinations have enough trashcans.
16. Research the local culture
Culture is an essential part of our holidays, you will meet the culture and experience it – whether you want it or not. It’s in the little things – the siesta in Spain when small shops are closed in the afternoon or the time of dinner in France. Culture is incredibly important if we travel and we need to have 100% respect for their culture. I wrote a blogpost about how to deal with different cultures and tips to avoid the culture shock.
17. Eat vegetarian or vegan food
There’s no more secret about the sustainability of going vegetarian or vegan. The farm industry is a big leader in producing CO2 and ways to cut back on it is to eat less meat or go fully vegetarian or vegan. Whatever you prefer and if you love eating meat – go ahead. I’m not stopping you! I would like to encourage you into trying different kinds of vegetarian and vegan food – they may completely surprise you.
18. Use environmental friendly sunscreen and bug spray
It turns out sunscreen is a big polluter in damaging the coral reef in the ocean and the water quality. Some sunscreens have a certain ingredient causing these damages. I’m not an expert in this to be completely honest, but I have been doing my research into the effects of using sunscreen on the environment. I do want to point out that please always wear sunscreen to protect your skin.
19. Cut back on using those travel-sized plastic containers
I used to use these as well and always thought they were very handy. However, it’s another way of using plastic and we throw it away after using it for a few days. Remember again that it takes over 1000 years to get rid of plastic. Every single thing we do to avoid the use of plastic is a bonus. My recommendation is to buy a shampoo or conditioner bar, I mentioned other tips in my blogpost about reducing the use of plastic.
20. Make conscious food choices
It goes back to shopping locally – try to eat at a locally owned restaurant to truly help the local community. If you struggle to find one of those, look at signs of other restaurants implicating what they’re doing to support the locals or the environment. It will help you in making a more responsible decisions for your breakfast, lunch or dinner!
We all travel to relax, to explore and to enjoy new experiences. Our goal won’t change if we try to travel and leave a positive impact. It might even increase our own travel experience because we know we did good, we know we helped the local community, the animals or the environment. Doing something good makes us feel good and there are a lot of small steps to take if you’re travelling.
Even if you are just saying no to animal tourism. That’s a big step in providing help for those animals and stop the abuse. If you decide to buy a water bottle with a filter – that’s another person who stops using a lot of plastic. It helps to keep our oceans cleaner.
Please don’t feel overwhelmed when you read about responsible travel or responsible tourism. It does not have to be complicated. Start small with banning animal tourism for example and broaden it with eliminating water bottles from your trip and eventually donate some money to a local community. Small steps will lead to the end goal as well. And our end goal is to start up this new movement of travelling with positive impact without completely changing the way we travel. This makes it easier and less scary to start with responsible travel.
What’s your biggest take-away from this guide to responsible tourism?