The year of 2017 has been designated as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations (UNWTO, 2017).
Our decision to travel is often taken based on our motivations to travel. These motivations have been classified as intrinsic (push factor) or extrinsic (pull factor), according to Crompton and Mckay (1997). For example, travelling to Thailand for a relaxing vacation is an intrinsic motivation or push factor. On the other hand, wanting to travel to Dubai to see the World’s Tallest Building and other superlative attractions is caused by extrinsic motivation or pull factor. Once our holiday expectations are met or exceeded, we are likely to visit the place again. Therefore, this is how we derive satisfaction from travelling.
However, our motivations should not make us ignorant of the basic ethics of traveling. We as travelers and tourists must bear in mind that what molds our experience is not just one way but two ways. In sense that, apart from our expectation of what the country or place has to offer us but also what we give back to the country or place, matters.
So, how do we give back to the places we travel to?
Without much elaboration, I would say, travel by heart- be kind, fall in love with everything beautiful you see. Do not feel secluded from the friendly locals around! Mingle with them and be one among them while you’re there, just as they say- travel like a local or when in Rome be a Roman. And that my friends, is how we begin to travel responsibly. Doesn’t sound hard right?
Responsible travelling is just as simple as it sounds, as a matter of fact, responsible travelling makes our travel experiences even more satisfying and rewarding.
In my opinion and practice, the following are 5 common and extremely useful ways to be a responsible traveler anywhere in the world.
1. Embrace culture, tradition and differences
Not only will this change your travel experience rather it will make it a memorable one. So, the more you travel and meet the locals and try being one among them; the more open-minded and accepting towards differences you become. I, personally find this powerful and an imperative tool for travelling as it helps us learn to respect cultures and traditions, while learning becomes a detrimental process.
2. Invest in local products and locals
Many developing countries depend of tourism for growth and development, which means tourism links to economic, social, cultural and environmental development in those countries. Former is the most crucial factor of responsible tourism as it acts as a catalyst for development and growth to the remaining factor. Although, tourism creates employment opportunities, one must bear in mind that tourism is a seasonal activity which in-turn links to the fact that people employed in this industry have seasonal and temporary jobs. This mainly becomes hard for tourism dependent countries.
In order to support them, we as tourists and travelers must spend on local art and crafts and other local products as this represents direct income to the local communities. While this also results in reduction of poverty in the country. Also, remember that bargaining here is a big no-no, unless the products are priced higher than the value but when in doubt always ask your local tour guides as they know best.
3. Protect and preserve the environment
Commuting less by cars or tour buses or any other gas guzzling modes of transport bear significant change. In my opinion, the best way to explore bustling cities or places are by using public transport, walking or even better- cycling. Best way to contribute to the reduction of carbon footprint.
As that could be one way, a lot of tourists find their accommodation in hotels. While that is a convenient option, I urge tourists to request for wash towels and linens as and only when needed rather than an everyday change. Although, many would not prefer this idea for the hefty amount they pay for their stay at hotel. I recently came across an article by CNN addressing this dilemma, and it can be understood that such sustainable practices are evolving and will bring about a change in the hospitality industry. You can read more here.
4. Learn the laws and ethics of the country before you visit
Adhering to customs and norms of the country is very crucial. Certain kind of behavior can offend the communities and local people.
The last but not the least, and the point I cannot emphasize enough on…
5. Be an ethical traveler
As a basic sense of privacy and moral right; a lot of people do not like being photographed, knowingly or unknowingly. As travelers and tourists, we are bound to basic etiquette when in a foreign country. If you intended to photograph children, make sure you are permitted by their parents or guardians. Also, if you wish to post their pictures on social media, please let them know. Furthermore, with pro-poor tourism and like increasing among tourists rapidly, locals from such areas may often feel like being photographed without their consent. Which is a concern. Consequently, this strains the relationship between the tourists and host communities. Therefore, we must respect the privacy of the host communities.
Thus, with these 5 ways in practice, you as travelers and tourists will be able to satisfy your desires as well as benefit the country you travel to. And as a passionate traveler myself, I would like all you fellow travelers and tourists to begin making this beautiful change to this amazing earth and enrich your travel experiences by being a Responsible Traveler.
Also, if you wish to read more on this, follow the UNWTO link below to find out other ways to be a responsible traveler.
UNWTO. 2017. Tourism For Development . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.tourism4development2017.org/.
Crompton. J.L, McKay.L.S, (1997) Motives of visitors attending festival events. Annals of Tourism. 24(2) p.427.