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- 1 How did Covid-19 affect the planet?
- 2 Responsible tourism vs. sustainable tourism
- 3 Tips for being a responsible tourist
What information do you look for when planning your trip? We assume it is something like where you are going to stay, what you are going to visit, how long you are going to stay, what kind of weather you are going to have, etc. But besides all this, from all the times you have traveled, have you ever informed yourself about the kind of impact your vacation can have on the local community, the environment, or issues such as global warming? Have you informed yourself on how to do Responsible Tourism?
Although many of us have good intentions when we travel, just a few of us actually inform ourselves about how to travel responsibly. However, perhaps this is the perfect time to educate ourselves as responsible tourists so that once we are able to travel again, we can do so the best way possible.
At Howlanders, we bet for sustainable tourism. Therefore we are going to give you some recommendations that you can take into account in your next trip, besides explaining to you what responsible tourism is, and its difference with sustainable tourism.
How did Covid-19 affect the planet?
A few months ago we could all get cheap flights to anywhere in the world and as often as we wanted. It was as easy as picking any place on the map, and off you go. Just like that, without giving it too much thought. However, with the current Covid-19 situation, international flights dropped by much less than half, and with it, so did pollution.
Although, for example, some airlines are looking for alternatives to offset the CO2 footprint left by each passenger, it is not enough. In fact, it is striking how the maps that show some of the points that are usually more polluted, are now completely different compared to last year.
This situation has given the planet a break and nowadays it is not so easy to go anywhere just for the sake of it. The controls imposed at airports are stricter and it seems better to think about twice even though the desire to travel is the same.
Responsible tourism vs. sustainable tourism
Responsible tourism is the one that is up to you or depends on you. By practicing it, you are the one who, among all the options, has decided to opt for those that generate the least impact on the environment.
However, it is often confused with sustainable tourism and although they are not the same, they complement each other wonderfully. Sustainable tourism depends on the destination policies or host decisions, they are the ones that limit the impact on local communities and the surrounding natural environment, the ones who drive economic prosperity by creating jobs and improving social cohesion. A responsible tourist is one who chooses a sustainable destination or host.
Tips for being a responsible tourist
The first thing you have to do to be a responsible tourist is to inform yourself. If you’ve come this far, you’re on the right track!
As soon as you know where you want to travel, try to investigate a little more about the destination. Not only to travel comfortably but also to know if you are doing it without harming anyone or anything. It is very important that you are aware of the impact you are making!
The more we know about the culture and traditions of the place, the more we can take advantage of the trip and the easier it will be to understand and respect the way of life and customs of the local population.
Use more sustainable means of transportation
We’ve all become experts in searching for the cheapest flights. I mean, who doesn’t want to save some money… However, keep in mind that air travel contributes to a large percentage of CO2 emissions, so if you can avoid it, it would be much better!
To travel long distances a very good option is the train because it pollutes much less and we assure you that it is much more enjoyable to appreciate the views up close. An example is the Train to the clouds that links Argentina and Chile, one of the highest train rides in the world.
Use public transportation or bicycle
If you are exhausted from walking in the city, make sure you use public transportation or even better, ride a bike!
If you are staying in a hostel or hotel, they can probably tell you at the reception how public transport works or where to rent a bike. This way you will not only save some energy but also be able to see how the daily life of the locals is.
Forget about the typical souvenirs: magnets, T-shirts, shot glasses (😉), etc. They probably aren’t even made there. It is best to buy your souvenirs at local stores or craft stores so that the money you spend goes back into the local community. By doing this you will be able to get closer to the people who live there and even ask them about the origin of the product or the manufacturing process.
Very important! Don’t haggle too much when buying. Although in some cultures it is traditional, you have to know how important this income is for the local artisan or trader.
What for you is very little money, for them can be a lot. Also, don’t buy products made from shells, coral, and other animals or illegal imitations.
If you want to have a closer experience, you can also hire a local and experienced guide (who is legal), this way you can support the local economy and will also be the best person to teach and advise you on what places to go and visit.
Yes, we can now mention the importance of trying out the local food. Don’t go visiting a new destination and end up eating at a Mcdonalds’. Please don’t. Part of visiting a destination is about teaching our palate to try new flavors!
When packing your suitcase, it is best to pack lightly and take only the essentials. There are also places, as in the W Trek of Torres del Paine, where there are “nurseries” where you can leave your luggage on the daily routes. Even so, we give you some recommendations:
- If you have a small transparent bag, you will not need the plastic bags that they give you at the airport to pass liquids and gels through the security control.
- Travelling by car, the more you load it, the more gas you will have to use and the higher your CO2 emissions will be.
- If you plan to spend time in nature, it is best to wear clothes that are easy to wash and dry quickly, as well as clothes made from lightweight materials that do not harm the environment.
- You can also look for alternatives to plastic or metal, such as bamboo cutlery and plates.
Don’t take anything from nature
It seems obvious to say that you should not take the small remains you find in Machu Picchu, for example. Or that it is not necessary to take a souvenir made with materials obtained thanks to (or as a result of) illegal hunting such as ivory or certain types of animal skins.
Unfortunately, it still happens… so if you want to do Responsible Tourism you must leave both, spaces and nature in peace. Avoid buying things that should stay where they are and do not take them home.
Choose an ethical tour operator
If you prefer to visit a destination with the help of a tour operator who can guide you, make sure it is an ethical tour operator.
In many cases, tour operators only listen to what tourists want but not what the community needs. So make sure you ask or check out the opinions of other travelers. The travel agency should ensure that your visit brings some benefit to the community and local development.
Once you have finished your trip, be sure to share your experience as Esther did in her trip to the Salar de Uyuni. This information will help future travelers to know which travel agencies to hire, where to shop, eat or other tips you might want to give after visiting the destination.
With this information, you will be able to help make tourism growth more sustainable. And surely, you will inspire other travelers to do more responsible tourism.
If you have any advice about a destination that you want to share here, don’t hesitate to comment!