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The typical complaint about tourism is that it’s like a bad one-sided relationship. Local communities accommodate tourists, but what do the tourists give in return? Aside from spending money, many tourists do very little to contribute to the communities they visit, and they often fail to consider sustainability while on vacation. Locals usually breathe a sigh of relief when tourist season is over and life goes back to normal.
Responsible travelers see tourism as a chance to tilt the balance back towards mutual giving and receiving. They want to have new travel experiences and make a positive impact locally. They also avoid leaving a mess for someone else to clean up by reducing travel waste. Ethical tourists try to leave a place better off than it was before they came.
Whether your trip involves air travel or you’re thinking about gathering a group of backpackers for the adventure of a lifetime, there are all sorts of things you can do to avoid being the sort of tourist that locals dislike. And you’ll still get to share pictures of breathtaking destinations on social media. If you are planning a trip and wondering how you can practice ethical travel and give back to the local communities you visit, read on to discover some helpful tips.
Seeing pieces of plastic fill up the world’s beautiful beaches and marine environments can be a drag. And, of course, all of that plastic has negative impacts on local people, wildlife and ecosystems. With CetoSea’s impact tours in the Caribbean, you can help solve ocean plastic and improve marine ecosystems while on vacation. Not only do these tours make cleaning up a beach and having a positive impact on the planet safe and fun, but they also help you dive deeper into the science behind ocean health. Your own samples collected from the beach can contribute to the science of preserving the ocean. Locals also appreciate the visible improvement these tours make for their beaches.
Traveling alone as a woman can sometimes be daunting or even unsafe. With Unearth Women’s Feminist City Guides, you can find a sisterhood wherever you go. These guides also spotlight local women-led businesses that help reduce the inequity for wages and employment in the local areas you travel. When you support local businesses owned by women, you are contributing to the local economy in a very ethical way.
The Himalaya region is suffering badly from climate change. Meanwhile, its communities lack access to electricity. Now, you can offset carbon while improving Himalayan locals’ lives and practicing more sustainable travel. Global Himalayan Expedition’s impact tours combine a breathtaking Himalayan expedition with a mission to install solar energy in remote communities. So far, impact tourists have installed solar panels in 94 Himalayan communities. During one of these tours, you’ll also get to learn a lot from local tour guides.
Dorobo Safaris is a pioneer of ecotourism in Tanzania. Since the nineties, its educational safaris have connected tourists with local guides who share traditional knowledge on low-impact walking tours in the Serengeti, Tarangire and Ruaha National Parks. Dorobo Safaris has worked integrally with the local Maasai hunter-gatherer community to establish the Dorobo Fund. It is a non-profit organization that works to preserve the local cultures, people, landscape and biodiversity of Tanzania. You’ll still get to see plenty of wild animals when you go on one of these safaris, but you will be doing so without damaging delicate ecosystems like you might if you utilize other tour companies.
Become an “astro tourist” at the Starlight Foundation’s first-ever designated Starlight Tourism Destination, a star observatory for tourists created by Dark Sky Alqueva. The 10,000 square mile area meets the high standards for clear and light-pollution-free skies near Alqueva Lake in Portugal. The observatories are designed to enable tourists to view the night sky through high-tech telescopes, learn about astrophysics and support the conservation of the local land and culture.
With the support of Ecuador’s Ministry of Happiness and Well-being, TrenEcuador provides a unique twist on the concept of fair trade with its fair train tours. It’s a luxury train that whisks travelers to rural communities and rainforest hiking trails, and it operates according to fair trade principles. You will get to visit communities that are well off the beaten path and experience local culture with minimal environmental impact. In total, fair train tours with TrenEcuador positively impact the lives of 5,000 rural Ecuadorians living in mountain villages.
Slow travel basically means extending your stay and immersing yourself in one local community. It can also include longer meals, slower forms of transportation and a lighter schedule. You’ll likely find that this form of ecotourism is quite relaxing and allows you to truly experience other cultures. Turkey is a wonderful place to experience slow travel because of its long, rich history.
CGH Earth Experience Hotels provide a responsible tourism experience that provides healing and relaxation with its Aryuvedic treatment options. This ancient healing philosophy combines knowledge of body, mind and spirit as well as the natural surroundings. CGH Earth protects its local communities and ecosystems with low impact hospitality at exquisite destinations in India. If you want to experience the wonders of India but are concerned about your carbon footprint, definitely check out CCH Earth Experience Hotels.
Wwoof is a network of organic farms throughout the world that accepts visitors who wish to get their hands dirty and work on a farm in exchange for lodging. This affordable and eco-friendly form of travel will help you learn about sustainable food and agriculture while helping locals with their harvests. Rather than contributing to overtourism in more popular tourist destinations, you’ll get to enjoy a quieter experience and help out in the community you are visiting.
The tourism industry is often associated with negative impacts on local communities. However, when you practice sustainable travel, you can see the world without harming the places you visit. For a list of places that make a conscious effort to keep tourism locally beneficial, check out this ethical destinations list, compiled by Ethical Traveler.
Remember to practice sustainability while traveling. Invest in reusable travel supplies instead of single-use products. Travel with a reusable water bottle, and use that rather than purchasing bottled drinks. Don’t consume more natural resources than necessary. Overall, strive to be a respectful tourist, and don’t slip into bad habits simply because you are on vacation.
If you’re concerned about your carbon impact from flying, read our post on how to offset your air travel. You can also further lower your carbon footprint by staying in an Airbnb that practices sustainability. Happy travels!