sustainable and responsible travel

Responsible Travel | The Importance of Responsible Tourism

If you’re an avid traveler, you’re probably already well aware of great travel tips to make your journey safer and more cost efficient. If your passion to see the world has taken you all over the globe, you might even have the experience and knowledge to seek out some of the rarest, off the grid destinations and sites. Perhaps you thrive in settings where you’re immersing yourself in the local culture, taking in your surroundings and experiencing life the way local residents live every day. Even if you’re new to traveling, or taking your first big international trip, it’s important to think about sustainable and responsible travel. But what does that mean? Traveling responsibly means that, as tourists, we’re considering the environment and cultures we’re visiting while ensuring we’re preserving them and making an effort to help sustain their health and ability to thrive. If you’re not sure exactly what sustainable and responsible travel means, we’ve got a few tips to help you get the most out of your international trip while considering your surroundings. 

Responsible Travel – How to be a Considerate Tourist

It may not seem like a huge deal, especially when we travel to major cities or big international travel hubs throughout the world, but tourism has a very real and lasting impact on local communities and the great outdoors. Keeping in mind that we, as travelers, are guests at our vacation destinations, it’s important to do our best to preserve local traditions, cultures, and the condition of the environments we’re visiting. Below are some tips to help you maintain responsible travel etiquette. 

  • Utilize local companies and products – It’s easy enough to dive right into your vacation destination’s hotspots – dining, lodging and even booking transportation online. But one of the most responsible and sustainable things we can do as tourists is to become patrons of local businesses. If you’re looking for items or gifts, buy from local vendors and artists. Avoid buying products that are imported or mass produced. When you utilize the services and goods from locally sustained businesses, you’re giving back to their community. This helps the local community economically and allows them to maintain infrastructure and the ability to survive.
  • Leave with what you arrived with – Our impact on local cultures and the environment they thrive in is not just affected by our ideas and cultural presence. When hiking or traveling to see nature’s beauty, we tend to bring along snacks, water, and other items that we’re not always the best about packing out again. The phrase “leave no trace”is pristinely important when visiting other parts of the world. To be a responsible traveler means to take in and explore, appreciate and consume everything your vacation destination has to offer, while leaving the smallest impact possible. 
Traveling responsibly means taking care of the cultures and environments you come in contact with. 
  • Transportation do’s and don’ts – Because responsible travel implies respecting not only cultural standards but caring for the environment as well, how we choose to get from point A to point B is equally important. Consider your carbon footprint – for example, nonstop flights mean less take off and landing, which are the events during airline travel that emit the most emissions. If you can travel by foot when you arrive, even better, but utilize carts, carriages, pedicabs and other green travel options. This not only cuts down on your carbon footprint, but also you’re effectively paying for local services. 
  • Respect the local culture – It’s a little more convenient when we travel to a big city – we aren’t pressed to adapt like we would if we’re headed for locations off the beaten path. But if you’re really looking to get the most out of your vacation, why wouldn’t you attempt to integrate and really experience local culture? The number one rule of sustainable and responsible travel is to adapt to your local culture. Expecting your destination to accommodate you is disrespectful and a bit absurd. Take time to read up on the history and traditions surrounding the people who reside at your destination. Learn what matters to them, learn about their language… arriving to their home with the intention of appreciating and accepting their history and culture will gain you experience you’ll never forget. Simple things like dressing inappropriately for the area, taking photos of people without asking, and the way we eat food can leave a negative impact on the people you’re there to integrate with.
  • Give back – A great way to experience local culture and become a responsible tourist is to volunteer locally. Learning about causes and activism that your local culture feels are important is a great way to gain some perspective and understand the people of the region. 
  • Sleep smart – To a lot of people, vacations mean enjoying your time off and experiencing luxury and convenience. If sustainable travel is your top priority, you can still have a great experience booking lodging that helps you support local economy. Use guest houses and small inns – not only will you get a comfortable place to rest your head, but the hospitality you’ll experience will probably rival that of a big corporate establishment. 
  • Trust your guides – When it comes to booking tours and excursions, try investing in local guides who have a reputation for being responsible and are working to improve their local economy and care for the environment. Guides and businesses that boast eco-responsibility, and won’t cut corners to gain a buck are going to be your best option. Guides that adhere to restrictions and wildlife laws are important – after all, we want the beauty of natural sites to be here for generations to come. 

At the end of the day, your vacation is a reprieve from hard work and your opportunity to unwind and experience some amazing things. You always have the option to make it a posh and luxurious trip – but if you’re looking to get the most out of your surroundings, taking into consideration how to be a responsible traveler will definitely help make your trip even more worthwhile. If you need help with travel documents, visit Official Travel Documents to learn about visas and other international travel news. 

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