#21DaysofTrends: Why Responsible Travel Should Be On Your Radar
What is responsible travel, and how can you join the movement?
Sadly for those of us who love to experience new places and sample the world’s cuisines, there’s no denying the fact that international air travel has a negative effect on the environment. And the travel industry as a whole is widely held to have had a less-than-positive impact on many places in the world too. Consider the plight of South-East Asian locations staggering under the environmental and social burdens caused by of an influx of tourists from the West (the idyllic island of Bali is a good example). Or the local populations of European cities – such as Barcelona, Spain – who are justifiably furious about the way tourism has negatively affected their neighbourhoods. No wonder it's widely felt that we need to make more responsible travel choices.
The goals of responsible tourism include sustainability, maintaining or improving environmental integrity, social justice and maximising the local economic benefit of tourism. Many of these principles were first formally articulated in 2002, in the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism, which you can read more about here.
With the global travel industry still very much on the rise, there’s no way we can assume that most of us will be giving up travel over the next few years. So what can we do to travel more responsibly?
Five simple things you can do to up your responsible travel quotient
1. Get clued-up on – and sensitive to – any social, environmental or political issues that are key in the place you’re visiting.
Consider your options with care: cancelling your trip to a water-strapped city altogether might have a negative impact on its economy, but if you do decide to travel there, don’t take a bath on arrival. In short, do some basic research before you arrive in a place you don’t know well, and behave accordingly when you are in situ.
2. Use registered tour operators and guides – local ones wherever possible – and ask them about their responsible tourism credentials.
Do they take a genuine interest in preserving the natural or cultural heritage of the places where they take tourists? What organisations do they belong to or support that aim to protect the environment or preserve the historical heritage of their location?
3. Don’t use Airbnb in cities where the app has been called out by locals as having a negative effect on the place where they live.
Of course there are arguments to be made for the benefits of Airbnb in many locations in terms of its positive impact on the income derived from tourism. Which is why this rule probably applies most often in European cities – but it might just apply to Cape Town as well. After all, when locals start saying that their existing housing crisis is being exacerbated by short-term rentals, do you really want to be contributing to that?
4. Buy local.
Don’t just drop your cash at the souvenir stand that’s most likely selling tat made in a factory in China. Ask around to find out where you can purchase genuinely locally designed and manufactured items.
5. Learn at least a few basic words in the local language of the place you’re travelling to.
Being able to greet people in their own language and knowing the words for ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is basic courtesy. And it won’t cost you a cent!