Responsible tourism is all about leaving a positive impact on both the environment and the people who live in the places we choose to visit. Don’t let this concept daunt you – responsible travel is not about limiting ways in which you can explore the world, but opening up more layers of the planet’s amazing potential to surprise and captivate you. Travelling responsibly needn’t have to cost more, nor should it suck the fun out of your adventure. And all it takes to nail it is a little bit of research…
1. Educate yourself about your destination and its people so you can speak, behave and dress appropriately. This typically leads to more meaningful cultural experiences.
2. Choose small group tour operators, which tend to have a lower environmental impact. Membership of an organisation like The International Ecotourism Society is a good sign that the operator tries to conduct itself in a responsible manner.
3. Decant biodegradable toiletries into bottles you can reuse on future trips instead of buying travel-size versions of your favourite products, which can typically end up in landfill.
4. Don’t believe what it says on the tin when it comes to ‘eco’ tours and accommodation. Ask operators to spell out their eco-friendly initiatives. Do they employ local staff and pay fair wages? Do they have environmental guidelines?
5. Resist the temptation to be wasteful just because you’re on holiday. Turn off the lights, the TV and the air-con in your hotel room when you’re not using them, and avoid single-use plastic, such as hotel toiletries and cocktail straws.
6. Avoid tours that promise hands-on interactions with captive wild animals. This supports an industry that illegally captures, transports and abuses millions of animals each year.
7. Do not give pens, sweets or other gifts to local children – it fosters a begging economy. If you wish to donate, contact a local school or organisation that can ensure appropriate gifts are distributed appropriately.
8. Opt for locally made, sustainably produced souvenirs, which helps to preserve local culture. Avoid anything made from endangered plants or animals, unsustainable hardwoods or ancient artefacts.
9. Try to eat local, in-season produce in destinations you visit. Imagine the carbon miles accrued by a hunk of New Zealand steak served in London!
10. Set a good example to other travellers. If you see other travellers acting irresponsibly, ask them to stop – they may not even know what they are doing is wrong.
You can grab your copy of the Solo Travel Handbook at Lonely Planet’s website, as well as all good bookstores.