5 Ways to be a more Responsible Traveller

2017 has been dubbed the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations General Assembly. What does this mean? It means that tourism has a significant part to play in reducing poverty and increasing sustainability particularly in developing nations. Sustainable tourism has the ability to help develop economics in developing countries by creating business opportunities, jobs and increasing trade.

Currently, it’s common for less than 10% of the money you spend on a holiday in a developing nation to remain in the country. Imagine that! 90% of the money you saved and scraped together to experience this country isn’t actually going to the people you see around you.

While many of the recommendations from the UN are directed at international governments, individual travellers play a huge part in the success of these endeavours. Here’s five things you can do when planning your next holiday. 

1.     Stay in locally owned accommodation

If you’ve ever travelled on a budget before, you know the horror of walking into a room and finding stains on the sheets, burn marks in the carpets and horrible odours that make you questions when the room last had a decent clean. For this reason, you’re more likely to book into a big chain hotel. You know that wherever you go, the conditions will be the same.

But in the internet age, TripAdvisor and AirBnB reviews mean the chances of these sorts of surprises are diminishing.  Locally owned accommodation such as Airbnb houses or local hotels are an opportunity for you to ensure that one of your biggest travel expenses is supporting local communities and jobs.

2.     Eat in locally owned restaurants

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This one could be a little tricky if you’re a picky eater but it doesn’t mean you have to eat street food. This is as simple as remembering that chains like Starbucks, McDonalds, Hard Rock Café and big hotel chain restaurants are all internationally owned. Whilst some of them may be franchises, a pot of your money is still going back to head office… wherever that might be.

Try to eat in local cafes and restaurants and if you’re truly worried about what you’re eating, consider booking accommodation with a kitchen, heading to a local supermarket and cooking your own meals. At least this way you support local shop owners and farmers by buying their produce.

3.     Visit ethical attractions

Look closely and you will see chains and sticks controlling the elephant. Don't support this kind of attraction.

Look closely and you will see chains and sticks controlling the elephant. Don't support this kind of attraction.

I get it, everyone wants to pat a tiger or ride an elephant or swim with the dolphins but ask yourself, what life are these animals living in order for you to visit them. It’s not just animal attractions that are a danger either. World heritage sites and beautiful natural heritage sites are all under danger due to mismanagement. If these areas aren’t carefully managed and protected, they won’t exist for future generations to enjoy.

Research the attractions you’re going to visit and look at what they are doing to protect the animals or landscapes you’re hoping to see. If your entry fee isn’t being used to help sustain the environment, look elsewhere for your entertainment.

4.     Buy from locally owned markets and small businesses

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It’s easy to wander into a large shopping centre where everything is all in one place or leave your souvenir shopping until you’re at the airport, but businesses that can afford the high rent in these locations are unlikely to be locally owned small businesses.

Try buying your souvenirs from market places and small stores to ensure your money is getting back into the community. You can also try reading a locally written book for that long flight home!

5.     Be mindful of your waste

Different countries have different problems when it comes to waste management and recycling. For example, in Mumbai 9600 metric tonnes of waste are collected each day causing fire and pollution danger around the landfill sites.

You can help minimise your impact on waste production by carrying your own canvas tote bags is to reduce plastic bag wastage; carrying reusable utensils to reduce plastic dining waste (e.g. plastic utensils and plates); and carrying a reusable water bottle rather than purchasing bottled water. If you’re concerned about how safe the water is to drink, try boiling water the night before and chilling it in your accommodation fridge to reduce the risk of water borne bugs. Be mindful of the sorts of problems the country you’re visiting may be experiencing and try to minimise your impact.

Supporting local communities and environments is a great way to make sure your next holiday has a positive impact on everyone. So be mindful and join the growing community of ethical travellers worldwide.

If you’re looking to join an ethical tour, Atma Journey’s are now taking bookings for Maharashtra, India, in January 2018. Stay in locally owned accommodation, visit local communities, and enjoy local hidden gems in this 10 day adventure on the central west coast. Head to https://atmajourneys.org/itinerary-1 for more information.

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