|What is Responsible Travel and why is it important? ||
|Can Sri Lanka embrace sustainable tourism practices? ||
|Voluntourism – Responsible volunteering in local communities ||
|Responsible volunteering in Africa made easy – doing your bit ||
|Expert travel bloggers share their latest ethical travel tips||
|Considerations for the ethical traveller||
Leading the Way by Making Good Choices
The experience you have when you travel often comes down to the choices you make along the way: when you go, where you stay, what you eat, who you spend time with. The more careless your choices are, the less fulfilling your trip is likely to be. On the other hand, the more thoughtful and well intentioned your choices are, the more satisfying your journey will be.
The same principle applies to your destination. If you choose to disrespect cultural norms, rubbish the environment, and treat locals as if they don’t exist, or to support businesses that do this, your destination will be poorer for your visit. But if you respect other ways of living, care for your surroundings, engage with the people you meet, and spend your money in ways that benefit the locale, you’ll leave positivity in your wake. Not to mention a fantastic example for others to follow.
Responsible Travel and RoundTrip
At RoundTrip, we’re all about giving back, so making good choices – before, during and after you travel – is an approach we strongly believe in. To help you do this on your next trip, we’ve put together a brief (but growing) list of websites that offer useful advice on responsible travel (see the box below for a scroll down list of useful links).
We’re also creating a section of articles on responsible travel topics (see below), which we hope readers will find relevant when planning or indeed during their trips. These features are written by experienced travellers and professionals in the travel industry. Our articles focus on general advice and tips that are useful for any type of trip, and often reflect the personal experiences of the author.
Links to useful Responsible Travel resources
Responsible Travel was the pioneering company in this field and it’s still going strong after 15 years. It sponsors the annual, high-profile World Responsible Tourism awards, which are based on a simple principle: ‘all types of tourism, from niche to mainstream, can and should be organised in a way that preserves, respects and benefits destinations and local people’. This link offers as good and convincing a paean to responsible travel as you’ll find on the web. Also check out www.responsibletravel.com/copy/tips-for-responsible-travel for some useful tips.
World Expeditions, which has been organising trekking and adventure travel for small groups for the past 40 years, publishes an online, 32-page Responsible Travel Guidebook. On page 4 you’ll find the ‘Credo of the Peaceful Traveller’, which captures the organisation’s ideal of the travel industry as an industry of peace, and travellers as ambassadors of peace. The rest of the booklet gives you an insight into what a big player in the travel industry thinks are the responsible travel priorities for all companies in the field, and those who use them: namely, environmental protection, looking after communities in need, opposing animal cruelty, protecting children, cultural preservation and sustainable development.
The pair of full-time travellers behind the Nomad Is Beautiful website have tapped fellow on-the-road bloggers for responsible travel tips, with some thought-provoking results. Among the more-straightforward suggestions to stay/eat at locally owned businesses, carry your own steel water bottle, refuse plastic bags when shopping, and do volunteer work where possible, you’ll find the story of one person’s decision to sweep away their carbon footprint by turning a big yellow van into a mobile home that runs on biofuel. Another contributor advocates setting aside part of your luggage allowance for essential supplies needed by community projects, the creative brainchild of the Pack for a Purpose initiative (www.packforapurpose.org).
The principles of responsible travel can also be applied to volunteering overseas (the buzzword is ‘voluntourism’). Travel Africa magazine recently interviewed Rachel Northover of the volunteering outfit African Adventures, who is concerned that too many companies ‘prioritise giving the volunteers an amazing experience’ with little consideration of ‘long-term, sustainable benefits to the host communities’. Her tips for ensuring that the benefits are reciprocated include checking if local partnerships have been forged and sustainable development is taking place, and challenging your own motivations for volunteering – in Rachel’s words, ‘Are you looking for self-gratification or do you want to make a real difference?’
This is a starting list of a dozen RT principles that have been put together by the small-group travel company Intrepid, and which you can put into practice right away. They range from supporting local businesses to giving money to well-credentialled community initiatives rather than just anyone on the street, and asking first before photographing or videoing an individual. Intrepid’s off-the-beaten-track arm, Peregrine, has a webpage on the same theme (www.peregrineadventures.com/responsible-travel), with a few more tips under the heading ‘Play your part as a responsible traveller’.
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This blog post by Lonely Planet author Celeste Brash offers a shortlist of ethical and environmentally sound practices. Apart from simple tips on ‘making travel better for everyone’, the post mentions how the non-profit group Ethical Traveler does an annual ranking of tourist destinations based on their ‘environmental protection standards, social welfare and human rights record’ (animal welfare has now been added to those criteria). Ignore the links provided, which are to the 2014 and 2013 rankings, and instead use this link to reach the most-recent listing and the accompanying report: https://ethicaltraveler.org/
Ethical Traveler has also published a summary of how to be just like it: an ethical traveller. Titled Thirteen Tips for the Accidental Ambassador, it’s written in a way that emphasises the ‘person-to-person aspects of travel’. These include worthwhile reminders such as ‘Learn to listen’ and ‘Curb your anger, and cultivate your sense of humour’. (Though the tip borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut Jr concerning ‘dancing lessons from God’, while well intentioned, may strike some as being a touch flaky.)
Long-term trip operator Expert Africa, which specialises in travel in the east and south of the continent, has outlined its own Africa-specific practices as well as recommendations for travellers. The former, under the heading ‘How we try to make our trips more responsible’, makes useful reading because it gives you an idea of what to keep in mind (i.e. what questions to ask) before booking a tour or using a holiday company – from the commonsense ‘matching expectations to the local reality’ to the obvious in principle but not always done in practice ‘We try to ensure that at least one member of our team has visited every place that we send our travellers’. You’ll find the traveller tips under the heading ‘How our travellers can help’.
From our own Alan Murphy, who has travelled in and written extensively on Africa, comes a blog post titled ‘Responsible Safari Travel – Is Conservation my Business too?’ that offers sound advice on choosing a safari option that takes ‘a responsible attitude into the bush’. Animal welfare was at the top of Al’s list of considerations when he wrote the post, but another prominent theme, unsurprisingly, is supporting local communities.
Buffalo Tours, a travel company offering customised, guided trips throughout Asia, has prepared a simple infographic of dos and don’ts regarding animal welfare while you’re out and about viewing wildlife in the region. You often hear about the dos, but the don’ts regarding wildlife encounters are often absent from lists of responsible travel tips. In this case, they include the Asia-specific advice to avoid elephant attractions that are less about conservation and more about generating cash from photo opportunities, and to skip places that capture marine wildlife (such as dolphins) for tourism.
Did you know that there’s a Global Code of Ethics for Tourism? The 10-principle code was developed in 1999 by the UN-governed World Tourism Organization to get everyone involved in the industry – from governments and travel agents through to travellers – thinking about how to maximise the benefits of tourism while minimising its negative impacts. The code’s principles have now been distilled into the booklet Tips for a Responsible Traveller, which zeroes in on the fundamentals: honour your hosts, support the local economy, protect the planet, and be a respectful and informed traveller. It’s responsible travel in a nutshell.
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