Friday, February 17, 2012

Responsible Travel - A Twist to Tourism Business?

Ever wondered what Responsible travel is about?  Respecting and benefiting local people and the environment. It brings together conservation, communities and tourism. It is a ‘means’ to more benefits from the environment accruing from responsible tourism practices.

Responsible travel revolves around these entities:
1.     Traveler/Tourist
2.     Destination
3.     Travel agent (if any)
4.     Local community

Let’s take a keen focus on the traveler/tourist entity and in successive articles we will; focus on the rest of the entities) and what he/she can do to promote responsible travel. Here are a few tips we thought to be of interest:

1.     Make flying a last option?
Of course, air travel is the fastest way to get to faraway lands. Unfortunately, it is also the single most environmentally harmful mode of transportation available to travelers. Airplane emissions are more detrimental to the ozone layer than those from ground transport, partly because the pollution simply occurs higher up in the atmosphere. One way to reduce your impact is to take longer, less frequent trips. Rather than jetting around the world in a whirlwind tour, why not stay in one place until you’re living like a local? You’ll use up less jet fuel and have a deeper experience.

Another way to approach the issue is to look closer to home for your adventures. The area around where you live may seem a bit boring at times, but with a little research, you’re bound to find some kind of cultural or natural attraction that’s close enough to travel to by car. If you keep your mind open, you could discover something in the next county over that’s just as exhilarating as something you’ve experienced halfway across the world.

2.     Eat and drink local
It’s an approach that not only reduces pollution and carbon emissions (from transporting food long distances), but supports local economies as well. It can also mean the difference between having an authentic travel experience and feeling like an uninformed tourist.

3.     Reduce waste at hotels
Have you ever taken a longer shower, left the lights on, or cranked up the air conditioning in a hotel room? It’s all too easy to overindulge on energy and resources, especially when away from home. Staying in a hotel, you get that delightfully anonymous feeling that almost wipes away your accountability to anyone.

Maybe it’s time you opted for eco-friendly lodges where electricity is generated by solar power, waste recycled, water drawn using hydro power, hot water supplied by efficient 'kuni' boilers, cooking done with gas and eco-bricks from sustainable sources etc

Think about it, responsible behavior matters just as much in a hotel as it does any other place and when you’re a guest in a foreign land, respecting the local resources becomes especially important. Just keep that idea in mind, and you will not be likely to use up water and electricity with such recklessness.

4.     Bring home thoughtful gifts
Rather than buying plastic key chains and t-shirts, why not get some more thoughtful souvenirs? Picking out special items at craft fairs, antiques markets, farmer’s markets, and other places that sell locally sourced products can add cultural depth to your trip.

Knowing the back story of how something was made or where it came from, makes it that much more interesting to bring home. Better still, you could learn some of the basics directly from an artisan. By taking a lesson, you would be supporting an independent business owner, and at the same time, getting hands-on insight into the local culture.

Sales from these merchandise are shared between the vendors and some saved in the fund for future community projects

5.     Pack light
Vehicles have to go through more fuel in order to carry heavier loads. By simply bringing less stuff, you can help make your trips on airplanes, public transportation, and cars more energy efficient. As an extra incentive, it will help you cut down on those luggage fees that airlines charge.
If you pack lighter, you will also be more inclined to walk or take public transportation to get around, rather than hailing a taxi every time you have to move your suitcase.

Images courtesy of © Johann du Toit of

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