Sustainable Tourism: What is it and how to be a Responsible Traveller

Sustainable or Responsible tourism is a type of tourism that takes into consideration the current and future economical, social and environmental impact to satisfy the needs of the tourists, the industry, the environment and the hosting communities.

Sustainable tourism minimises negative social, economic and environmental impacts; generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities; improves working conditions and access to industry; involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances, makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage embracing diversity, provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues; provides access for physically challenged people; is culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.

If you want to be a Responsible Traveller, follow these tips:

  • Don’t litter. Try to carry your own shopping bag to avoid contributing to the plastic problem. Recycle when possible.
  • Try to avoid excessive waste and the use of plastic bottles (in many countries there is no way of disposing of these, therefore creating plastic mountains due to tourism). Furthermore, try to buy products with less packaging or buy in bulk.
  • Reduce energy consumption to reduce carbon emissions. Unplug your mobile phone charger, turn off the lights, wear more clothes instead of turning up the thermostat, and buy produce that is in season, as more energy is wasted for the production of out of season produce.
  • Conserve water. Take shorter showers – the average hotel guest uses over 300 litres of water per night! In a luxury hotel it is approx. 1800 litres!
  • Always ask before taking photographs. If someone says no, respect their wishes.
  • Educate yourself about the place you are visiting and the people – Be considerate of the communities you visit.
  • Respect cultural differences – and learn from it! People in different places do things differently – don’t try to change them – enjoy them.
  • Dress respectively. Cover up away from the beach. Cover your head in religious places. Notice local dress codes and adhere to them.
  • Do not purchase or eat endangered species (e.g. turtle egg soup, crocodile handbags). Choose sustainable seafood.
  • Support the local economy. Buy locally made souvenirs, eat at local restaurants – enjoy the local culture!
  • Do not give pens, candy or other gifts to local children – it fosters a begging economy. If you wish to donate, contact a local school or tour operator who can ensure the gifts are distributed fairly and properly.
  • Do not support the illegal drug trade or the sex trade.
  • Take public transit. Or if you must rent a car – why not a hybrid or electric one if available?
  • Support responsible tourism organisations – those operators who publicly are aiming to make tourism more responsible.
  • Respect the animals – Find out about the animal welfare standards. Avoid going to places and shows were animals are exploited, and report any sign of animal trafficking. Respect their habitat.
  • Do not alter the natural environment – Don’t pick any flower or plant or buy any souvenir or product made of endangered species. In natural protected areas, try always to follow the path.

Most of the information of this article has been extracted from the Sustainable Tourism website:

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