Even in a continuously changing globalized world, the tourism and travel industry remains at the forefront of massive economic and social activities that define the ebb and flow of people, wealth, and culture. The results of these activities range from beneficial and benevolent to malign and destructive. Note that travel is not necessarily a bad thing but an integral part of nature. However, the impact caused by the sheer volume of travelers and their machinery has become a cause for concern in recent years.
In this regard, ethical travel mitigates negative aspects of that impact, reconciling that travel will always have results people may not be fully in favor of but believes in humanity’s power to set things right. If you’re a concerned traveler and want to know more about the responsible mores of heading to a destination, read on and travel ethically with these tips.
1. Opting for sustainable and responsible traveling
As science improved, movements and causes have risen to address unsolved issues since the development of the modern world. In the tourism sector, two concepts that modern travelers are becoming aware of include ideas about sustainable and responsible traveling. These paradigms seek to transform modern travel conventions that have contributed to adverse environmental and social outcomes and solve long-standing issues that distort the harmony of humanity and the environment.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization, or UNWTO, defines sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.” In this regard, sustainable tourism addresses several issues, such as pollution, overcrowding, poverty, and the displacement of people and wildlife, to name a few. At the same time, it acknowledges that the industry is also a source of opportunities for growth and development and serves to bridge cooperation and peaceful coexistence between nations.
Responsible tourism, on the other hand, focuses on the actions of the individual, on how they can take a course of action that minimizes negative aspects while generating more beneficial ones. Being responsible implies paying greater attention to how much impact a single person can make whenever they visit a place.
2. Being aware of how to be a responsible traveler
Traveling is a double-edged tool; used correctly, visitors can transform the lives of the locals and native wildlife for the better by providing better economic opportunities, creating new social directives, and preserving the environment they live in. However, one should know that traveling can also have, in one way or another, negative impacts if visitors are not aware of these things.
Unregulated tourism can cause harm to local people, tourists, and the environment.
Unregulated tourism can manifest its problems in many ways, including overcrowding, which limits economic opportunities for not-so-familiar destinations, causes pollution and waste generation, and depletes or damages natural resources.
Societal, cultural, and environmental degradation happens if profit starts taking a higher priority.
With profit-over-people agenda, some tourism establishments exploit natives or the environment. These can manifest in industries displacing clean businesses, tour operators capitalizing on animal encounters, or natives using wildlife and nature to sell as souvenirs.
Excessive catering to tourists displaces local businesses and also leads to a loss of culture.
Government units allowing the excessive building of malls and other big corporation establishments to profit from the influx of tourists end up displacing intangible wealth in the form of authentic native culture and experiences.
Large concentrations of people equate to a large number of natural resources used and waste generated.
The sheer volume of people consequently corresponds with the use of resources to fulfill their basic needs and luxuries. Though waste is an unavoidable byproduct of human presence, improper waste management can severely affect the environment.
Even with an exchange of culture, the wrong notions might still be taught or learned if there are no safeguards such as proper education.
Tourism creates cultural cross-pollination because of the exchanges that happen organically throughout its course. However, this may form incorrect preconceptions and stereotypes if the interactions are not done in a proper medium or presented in a proper context.
3. Keeping these travel practices in mind
Having read all that information about responsible travel, you don’t need to stress out or walk on proverbial eggshells when traveling. As a responsible traveler, you can have a purposeful journey and still enjoy the beauty and richness of nature and the culture of the place you’re visiting.
What there should be, ideally, is mutual respect and care for the environment and society. Travelers are guests to a place, and as a guest, they must offer their hosts proper respect. On the other hand, hosts should not be exploiters but preservers of the rich beauty that they have been entrusted with.
Here are some travel practices to be mindful of to help you with your next getaway:
Be sure to use sturdy items you can reuse instead of single-use plastic items.
Try to avoid using single-use containers and utensils when packing lunch or eating out. Some travelers even bring their own cutlery, drinking bottles, and straws to help reduce plastic waste.
Refrain from buying souvenirs or medicines made from prohibited natural resources.
One of the most damaging industries to local animal populations is when they are exploited and hunted to be used as material for souvenirs. These can come in various forms, such as tiger and bear parts used in traditional herbal medicines, protective talismans made of bird bones and feathers, ornaments from ivory tusks, or even novelty items such as bracelets or combs made from sea turtle shells.
Steer away from souvenirs made of live or unexploded ordnances.
More common in regions currently in conflict or recently been in one, unexploded ordnances such as bullets, grenades, or even bombs are sometimes sold to tourists or made into ornaments and items for decoration. Not only does this endanger people, but it creates a paradigm where natives end up risking their lives digging such things up for sale.
Make sure to research the tours you are signing up for and that they are certified.
Certain types of tours, such as slum tours, have detractors who denounce them as exploitative. You can also look up if the recipients of the tour’s earnings are given the help and opportunities promised to them by tour organizers.
Support the local economy by purchasing locally crafted goods.
If you’re a fan of artisan-crafted items, be sure to support local products and pay a fair price that reflects the quality and richness of their art.
Support local businesses by eating in restaurants operated by locals or natives who have lived in the area.
While eating your favorites at a fast food might be reliable, the money would be more helpful when put in the hands of locals instead. Moreover, you’ll have a more authentic food option when opting to support these small-scale food businesses.
Find accommodations at a local inn instead of a chain hotel.
There’s a good chance the local inn will impress you with quality service and delicacies, as well as having a homey and intimate atmosphere you won’t find with template-built hotels.
Try to support more animal sanctuaries that treat animals humanely.
While there are zoos, sanctuaries, and aquariums worldwide, not all of them foster proper treatment of wildlife, and some of these establishments mistreat and use animals for entertainment and profits. Moreover, remember that animals should be in the wild unless they need proper care and treatment in a certified non-profit sanctuary, which you can support through donations or volunteer work.
Traveling responsibly doesn't mean giving up your comforts
The best part about being a responsible traveler is that it lets you have purposeful and empowered choices on what to do on your trip. These choices include being able to help the environment and society in whatever way you can. So, if you’re heading off somewhere, don’t forget this list of how to travel ethically.