If you’ve found this article it most probably means that you are wondering about ethical tourism. That you are sensitive and want to take care of everything that’s around you, the environment and communities you travel to. The U2GUIDE community is just like you 🙂 and we’d like to share with some advices about ethical tourism and how to practically put it into practice.
What is exactly ethical tourism?
It is simply the kind of tourism that benefits the communities and environment of the destination you’re visiting. All the activities you get to do in the area (whether it is something related to nature, shopping, sports…) ends up offering some kind of income or positive impact in the region.
This positive impact can be economic (local businesses that offer fair pay conditions for employees), social (getting to do activities and living your trips in real contact with locals, who truly benefit from your visit) or environmental/cultural (destinations that give incentives to preserve cultural heritage of the region, as well as wildlife and natural resources).
So what is ethical tourism? This concept is pretty identical to sustainable tourism and ecotourism (although not the same). They all belong to the same family of activities that benefit certain communities, stressing the fact of not leaving a negative or polluting impact after you leave.
So these are the tips you should follow to make your staying (pretty much anywhere) ethical and sustainable:
1. Plan a specific route that’ll pollute as little as possible. Try to avoid planes (especially doing many stopovers along the way!), use trains or public transport and if you have to get the car, look for some travel buddies to share your trip with (or at least a part of it) so you do not spend as much and reduce emissions at the same time!
2. Ask your hostel or places where you’ll stay whether they have a written policy regarding the conservation of the environment and local communities, emphasizing the fact of protecting the environment by not wasting water and energy and offering employees fair and safe work conditions or even if they are enrolled in any recycling programme, due to the large quantity of waste that hotels, hostels, lodges… usually produce.
3. If planning activities inside the community itself, rely on local guides and authentic experiences, who will always know, not only the best hidden spots, but the most sustainable ways to have fun while getting to know your area. Plus, they are really used to working with foreigners (in case you are one), so they’ll be more than happy to “teach” you the best ways to behave or even talk not to offend any local just out of lack of knowledge.
4. Research about the local culture and customs. This is something pretty logical, but not that many travelers are aware of the cultural (ex)change they are going to experiment until they are at the destination. You should really treat the community and locals like they’re a part of you, showing interest -before and while traveling- about how they live and think. Local wisdom can teach you an amazing quantity of valuable things!
5. Ask to locals if they have in the community some sort of project that you can support, any traditional activity you can learn how to do. All those kinds of experiences benefit you because you immerse yourself in their daily life and benefit them by supporting what they do. It’s a win-win!
6. In case you are doing some sort of volunteering action during your trip, just make sure to do it in the right way. Enroll yourself in projects that benefit locals and their daily life, the one that will have a lasting effect after you leave. Do not commit yourself to help local people in a project if you’re only staying for one week. And be aware of your skills: don’t participate in building a library, for instance, if you don’t have building knowledge. Read all about this subject in our article about “How to avoid voluntourism?” It will help, for sure!
7. Bring all the eco-friendly belongings you can. Try to avoid plastic packaging, use a refillable water bottle… Think about all these small details that will prevent you from leaving trash and make your trip as eco-friendly as you can. In the same line, look for the recycling points and leave everything as you found it. Basically, treat the place where you’re staying in the same you’d like tourists to behave in your hometown.
8. Pick a tourism operator that CARES. They are a big part of the travel industry, so developing responsible actions that have a positive impact at the destination is a sign that they want to change things and not keep spreading a negative behaviour, which tourism in general can be “guilty” of sometimes. Check if they give back to the communities or to the environment through any programme or policy!
I can’t stress enough how beneficial it is (for everyone) to always travel ethically. In the end, traveling is about sharing, learning and exchanging what we all have learned in our life, trying to enrich our vision of life together, no matter where you’re traveling to. If you also think like this and have comments or suggestions to make regarding ethical travel, don’t hesitate to leave them down below. Let’s learn all together!