Responsible Travel: The New Big Thing
These days it feels like almost everyone is travelling. Flights are cheaper and information about places is so much easier to come by due to the internet. Tourism is booming. But with this boom comes some bad bad consequences. Many people don’t immediately realise the effect that tourism can have. Particularly on developing countries.
So what is the big deal?
Travel, like almost everything else in the world follows trends. Trends can suddenly take off and a country will experience a huge influx of tourism, despite not necessarily being equipped to deal with this sudden phenomenon. People will realise that their area is a hotspot and they’ll seek to capitalise on it, quickly, to make money. The effect can quickly become a problem when that destination goes out of style. Locals who have tried to use that trend to their advantage will suddenly experience a huge drop in income that they can’t afford. This is just one example of one of the bad effects of tourism.
At it’s worse tourism can destroy culture, communities and take childhoods away. So in order to avoid these effects it’s important that we as travellers and tourists commit to practices that lessen the bad effects we can have on communities.
So what is responsible travel?
Responsible travel and tourism is a way of travelling that maximises economic, social and environmental benefits for locals with minimal impact and cost to the country concerned. There are many different terms for what I essentially feel is ‘travelling responsibly’.The term ecotourism is intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial (mass) tourism. Sustainable travel largely applies to the economic impacts that travelling can have on locals. Ethical travel is for me minimising the impact. I also feel it’s important to travel with cultural sensitivity particularly in countries where religion or ancient culture is still widely practiced.
So how do I put that into practice?
Put simply respect where you visit. Immerse yourself in the culture. Be aware of things impacting communities. Avoid harmful tourist activities that could contribute to this. Patronise social initiatives that help local people stay economically active. Ask tour operators questions about their practices. Don’t support animal activities that use cruel methods to make money. Don’t go to orphanages that take children out of school for tourists to visit.
Most importantly: do your research.
Nobody is expecting you to travel with a perfect record. Everyone can make mistakes. But if you recognise them and learn from them then nobody will judge you.
Everyone can travel responsibly
Responsible travel is not limited to anyone in particular. Whatever your budget, whatever your style of travel you can travel responsibly. The key is to ask questions and as I said before: research.