In this 21st Century, tourism is one of the fastest growing industries and helps boost many flagging economies around the world.
With the rapid growth of reliable communication options and improved transport infrastructure, more and more people from around the world are making the decision to travel to faraway places and distant countries that used to be a dream, once upon a time.
>As with anything, tourism is not always positive and can have certain negative impacts on the world, including environmental deterioration, social exploitation, abuse of cultural heritage, human rights violations and/or economic dependence.
In order to get ahead of challenges being brought to the forefront by tourism, a new term, “Responsible Tourism” has been coined, with the hopes of minimizing the negative impacts of the industry.
Making responsible choices for your vacation can actually contribute towards making this world better. All should be made better aware of responsible travel so that travelers can become more conscious about ‘how’ they travel, rather than just concerning themselves with ‘where’ they travel.
With that in mind, here are four ways you can become a more responsible traveler.
1. Help Protect the Environment
Possibly the most important thing that needs to be taken care of when traveling is the environment. One of the biggest negative impacts that tourism has on the world is environmental damage, the result of increased pollution, clearing of land and damage to local resources. We all are already suffering from the adverse effects of global warming – the polar ice-caps are melting, animals are losing their lives, glacial rivers are overflowing and causing floods and coral reefs are dying out, among other negative impacts.
While on a vacation, people usually tend to cause quite a bit of environmental damage, either knowingly or unknowingly. The most common practice is littering plastic and other waste here and there. Also, adventure sports like snorkeling and scuba diving are becoming so popular that the marine life is increasingly being threatened.
When we travel to a different country, we should remember not to make a mess of the place. Being environmentally aware will help us save this world for future generations.
Responsible tourism is a means to achieve sustainable environmental development while promoting the economy of a country.
A new word that has recently been added to the dictionary – ‘voluntourism’ – essentially means combining volunteer work with tourism. There can be no better way to meaningfully engage with host communities, serve local people and help them improve life than by volunteering. By volunteering, you can help educate kids or help improve the local health care system.
Several local, as well as international organizations, offer volunteering opportunities to travelers who wish to create positive change while exploring a country. Imagine how satisfying it would be to volunteer and teach the street children while in India or to be a part of a wildlife conservation project while exploring South Africa. Each country has a specific need and travelers can contribute in their own way.
Before getting involved with any sort of volunteer work, however, it is essential that you do your research properly. Being associated with a reputable organization will not only ensure the fact that your contribution paves the path for sustainable growth of host communities, but it will also provide you with a deeper insight and perspective of life. A volunteering experience can change the way you look at your life and motivate others to walk on your path, but make sure you are volunteering responsibly.
3. Support the Local Economy
Tourism can only support a country’s financial growth when travelers make a conscious choice to contribute to the local economy. Take a deeper look at your sustainable choices, however, and you will often find out that many of these businesses are owned by larger corporations that are multinationals.
When you travel to the beaches of Thailand, wouldn’t you rather try the local food from small shacks rather than going for KFC or McDonald’s, which you can find on almost every corner of your own city!
This is just one example. While traveling to a foreign country, it is necessary to eat and shop from local outlets, take the assistance of a local tour guide and avail the mode of transport that is run and used by natives. By doing this, you can effectively add to the country’s economy.
4. Treat Animals with Love
Who doesn’t love animals? But if we love them so much, then why can’t we feel their pain while riding on them?
In Thailand, for example, elephants are extremely popular and people love to go for elephant rides. Did you know, though, that often one of the reasons why these animals are so tame is that they are beaten and abused until their spirit is literally crushed?
To be a responsible traveler, you should stop encouraging animal abuse and inspire others to stop it as well. Keep in mind that going for animal rides does nothing but cause pain to innocent animals for the sake of your enjoyment.
Rather than going for a ride, why not visit a National Park or a rescue center where animals have more freedom to live, where their well-being is taken care of and they are not subject to any sort of violence. There are several conservation projects that will give you the opportunity to get closer to these animals, spend time with them and get to know more about their lives and daily habits. If you are in Thailand, you can visit the elephant villages where you aren’t able to ride on them or see them painting a picture, but you can see them happily playing in the water and roaming around carelessly. Maybe even volunteer with animals.
When traveling, try to enrich not only your experiences but also help inspire others. Making this world a better place, saving the environment and helping the underprivileged isn’t only the responsibility of governments. We, as responsible individuals, should take up the cause in whichever way possible and contribute as much as we can.
Remember that the actions taken today will affect the lives of tomorrow!