Put simply, ‘Responsible Travel’ is about enabling the sustainable development of destinations by minimising negative impacts and maximising the positive for the benefit of different stakeholders, local communities, holidaymakers, tourism businesses and the destinations themselves. This includes the destination’s natural environment, its biodiversity and cultural heritage. The rewarding thing about responsible travel is that it is most of the time synonymous of authenticity.
Having the following characteristics, Responsible Tourism:
- minimises negative economic, environmental, and social impacts;
- generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry;
- involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances;
- makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world’s diversity;
- provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues;
- provides access for physically challenged people; and
- is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence
The Cape Town Declaration gives you a comprehensive definition of responsible travel.
How to travel responsibly?
Travel off the beaten track and support responsible operations
One of the best ways for travelers to have a positive impact is to include in their trip, a selection of activities and services run with an ethical approach by the local community or those that are beneficial to the community but not necessarily run by them. These usually take travelers off the beaten track with a deeper immersion into local traditions. Most travelers’ primary motivation to visit Asia is to discover different cultures. But these countries also offer an immense choice of natural wonders and experiences, from the contemplative type to the more sporty choices of biking, rafting, trekking, or even gliding through the tree tops. Apart from benefiting the community, they will also provide an exciting insight into the most authentic areas to create unforgettable memories.
- Ask for activities run by local communities such as community based projects; for example if you are ready to sacrifice a bit of comfort to get a grasp of rural life conditions then try a homestay; or spend a day guided by local people in their community forest or a nearby national park or bird sanctuary, showing you their lifestyles and customs.
- Visit secondary heritage sites which are less visited such as Koh Ker and Banteay Chmar in Cambodia; Sri Satchanalai or Phimai in Thailand and Champa temples in Vietnam.
- Visit craft workshops and environmental education centers.
- Stay in environmentally friendly hotels when available.
- Join activities and site visits run by operators supporting nature conservation and those that empower local people and cultural diversity.
- Take meals in local restaurants and those run by NGO’s that have set up vocational training programs in hospitality for the most disadvantaged.
- Take a cooking class.
- Visit national parks.
- Take a biking tour in the countryside.
Support local economy
Many crafts purchased in a country are often imported and usually the vendor will guarantee it was made in the country or from a different material than the one actually used. It is not easy to be sure whether the craft you are buying has been made locally using renewable resources and through ethical, healthy and fairly paid working conditions! To guide your shopping we give you an indicative but of course non-exhaustive list of shops which respect all of the above. Ask for locally made items accepting that they may be more expensive, purchase from workshops where you can witness it is locally made. Be a discerning buyer.
Purchasing from small local shops does not guarantee items are made locally; a study reveals for example that in Cambodia retailers are increasingly selling imported souvenirs copying local style of scarves as they think tourists want to pay the cheapest price. But when actually surveyed 66% of tourists declared they’d much prefer to buy locally made products and are ready to pay more for them.
Purchasing local products in markets, fair trade shops and handicraft workshops is one of the best ways to contribute to a community while at the same time helping the cultural revival of traditional know how alongside poverty reduction.
Check our ‘Tips for your Trips’ in the EXO Tips Booklet, they will allow you to enrich your discovery and interactions with local people.
Millions of children around the world are pushed onto the margins of their societies. These children have little access to education and are forced to work, to go in the streets to sell small items or beg, they may be separated from their families and as such are at risk of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
During your travels, you might be confronted with situations of children in distress or at risk of being abused or harmed. ChildSafe 7 Tips provide you with information, suggested actions and practical advice on what to do so that you too can be a Child Safe Traveler and protect children wherever you travel. Click here.
Respect cultural differences
The main overarching principle when traveling, just as in everyday life, is RESPECT. Be tolerant and respect diversity, observe social and cultural traditions and practices. Open your mind to other cultures and traditions, it will transform your experience, you will earn respect and be more readily welcomed by local people.
- Learn as much as possible about your destination and take time to understand the customs, norms and traditions. Avoid behaviour that could offend the local population.
- Dress appropriately. Respecting the dress code where you are is very important, especially around religious sites.
- If you don’t already have proficiency, learn a few basic phrases in your host community’s language. Learn how people greet each other and practice that greeting. Body language is also important. Be astute and adapt your body language appropriately.
- Ask permission before taking photographs of people or filming them and respect their wishes in the rare case they’d refuse.
Respect the environment
In Asia, the tremendous economic growth of the region has been at the cost of the environment; with tourism increasing the pressure sometimes in the most remote areas. It is our responsibility to prevent or minimise any negative impacts on the environment, local community and economy of the destination.
- Encourage practices to conserve the environment, including the use of renewable resources in a sustainable manner and the conservation of non-renewable resources.
- Travel with an anti-plastic attitude; carry a reusable water bottle and foldable bag; try to take your own bags when shopping.
- Don’t litter even in places where it’s already very dirty; avoid leaving any rubbish behind when trekking or going into rural villages. Smokers, please keep your cigarette butts in a small container; don’t throw them in the sea, the river or even on the ground.
- Conserve Resources. Be aware of resource shortages such as water and wood as many tourist destinations in Southeast Asia are under increasing pressure.
- Walk, cycle or experience the human-powered rickshaws for sightseeing. Try a fuel-free or shared transport option like a public bus.
- Don’t buy products made from endangered species or valuable, historical, or cultural artefacts. Ask about where a product comes from. Many of these products are illegal to export. Report incidences to local or national conservation organizations.
- Don’t disturb the wildlife. Maintain a proper distance at all times. Don’t use loud, motorized equipment among small communities of people or in areas where there is wildlife. Don’t pick up and take home natural resources such as shells, plants, animal bones, etc.
- Avoid places where animals are mistreated including elephant rides (elephant look strong but are very fragile), places where gibbons are put in your arms.