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What is Responsible Travel - From the travel community

Responsible travel has become a key term within the travel industry, with businesses opening solely focused around it.

We have been privileged enough to be a part of a community of people striving to create a better world through travel. We asked them about their thoughts, struggles and tips on how to become a responsible traveller.

What is Responsible Travel?

Tourism is a billion dollar industry that has taken the world by storm. Social media, a rising middle class and a mindset shift in millenials are some of the main reasons for this. However, as wonderful and educational as travel is, unfortunately it has generated negative social, economic and environmental impacts, especially on vulnerable communities in developing countries.

Responsible travel aims to address these discrepancies through ethical tourism.

When speaking to our fellow responsible travel companies around the world, one of the main themes that arose was leaving a positive impact on the community and environment that you visit.

In doing so, we need to minimize our negative social, environmental and economic impacts and be aware of the consequences of visiting each place.

Tomas Gonzalez from El Rusc explains responsible travel means traveling with a “consciousness of where you are going, how you are getting there and the impact your holiday will have on the local population”.

Overall, responsible travel is about generating a positive impact on the communities and places through which you travel, rather than a negative impact. We do this by “empowering them (communities) rather than exploiting them” as beautifully said by Margherita from The Crowded Planet.

Plastic, specifically single-use plastic is considered the number one enemy to responsible travel by the eco-friendly travellers.

If you could free the world from one thing, what would it be?

When asked the above travel-related question, another recurring theme popped up: plastic, specifically single use plastic. The world has been using plastic for its convenience for too long now and the effects are showing.

It is aiding environmental degradation and polluting community living spaces leading to unhealthy living conditions.

Nika from Impact Travel Alliance says we need to invest in an alternative for plastic as reducing our usage is not enough.

A number of responsible travel enthusiasts also stated carbon emissions, which is almost impossible to escape when travelling. However, it’s easy to limit your carbon emissions. Carbon emissions contribute to climate change and global warming, which have serious consequences for humans and the environment.

We are already witnessing these effects through soaring summer temperatures and melting glaciers.

Interestingly, a topic that popped up a number of times is the lack of educated privileged tourists. These types of tourists often choose the cheapest tours that tend to exploit locals or large resorts that are internationally owned.If you have the privilege to travel, you will have access to information regarding the impacts of travel.

Additionally, you’ll have the financial stability to make ethical choices. However, due to privileged tourists lack of voluntary awareness, they tend to be disrespectful towards local cultures, people and the environment.

A Flea market of local handicrafts being held in Goa, India.

Responsible Travel Tips from the Experts:

  1. According to Tomas Gonzalez from El Rusc, we need to be aware of who is being costed (generally locals) by our travel and who is benefiting (generally large international corporations). With more information and awareness, we should be aware of the “actions that can change this paradigm”.

  2. David from Hopineo suggests looking for professionals who are committed to responsible tourism through ethical and local tour operators. Jessica Wuyek states that these travel professionals should have a reputation for “honouring and respecting the land and people you are visiting.''

  3. Irene Lane from Greenloons suggests brushing aside any negative suspicions you have of international travel and rather embrace a “sincere exploration and discovery of nations and cultures”. In doing so you’ll make human connections rather than social media ones. Irene Lane also suggests that we use travel to empower ourselves to question our own social customs and values, which can sometimes be unsustainable.

  4. Nika from Impact Travel Alliance states that you should always know where your money spent is going. It should be going to locals, not international stakeholders. Take the time to learn about the community through which you are traveling and be open to new experiences. In doing so, you’ll learn about the do’s and don’ts of that community and minimize your chances of offending anyone.

  5. Jen Morilla suggests staying in locally owned and run accommodation that pays their staff reasonable salaries instead of internationally-owned chain hotels.

  6. Audrey E Scott from Uncornered Market suggests spending your money locally and spreading it around different businesses so that “more people and families benefit from your visit”.

  7. Bianca Caruana suggests surrounding yourself with the right resources. There are blogs, websites and Facebook groups aimed at assisting people to travel responsibly.

  8. Margherita Ragg from The Crowded Planet suggest traveling slowly. By spending more time in a place instead of rushing to numerous places, you will reduce your carbon footprint and allow you to travel deeply.

  9. Select environment friendly transportation to reduce your carbon footprint or choose a “car-free island for your next vacation destination” as suggested by Irene Lane from Greenloons.

  10. Adjust your attitude towards local people. Tatjana from Dedicasion con Proposito explains that your first world education doesn’t mean you are better than the communities you visit. One can learn so much whilst in different parts of the world, therefore we should “connect with people and listen to their stories and ideas”.

  11. Jarryd Lindsey Salem from NOMADasaurus suggests being more aware and making better choices with regards to plastic. Use a reusable water bottle, carry a reusable straw and refuse plastic bags.

  12. Educate yourself with regards to the destinations you visit and the impact it may have. As Mandy Barnett from MBarentt Designs states, “if people don’t understand, they don’t care”.

  13. Finally, Jazzmine Raine suggests starting small. These small changes will lead to bigger changes once you see the impact of your changes.

Responsible travel doesn’t need to be big elaborate gestures. It needs to be incremental lifestyle changes that you practice wherever you go. By choosing to support local businesses, supporting environmental protection and aiding the preservation of different cultures, you are sustaining a world for generations to come!


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