27th day of ninth month every year is celebrated as Tourism day worlwide as Statutes of the UNWTO were adopted. It raises awareness among the general mass the impact of tourism on our environment. This year let us pledge to become a ‘Responsible Tourist‘.
The kind of natural calamities we witnessed recently (Kerala floods or Himachal Pradesh floods) it’s time for us to treat the mother nature with respect as a tourist. At wander youth, we strongly believe in leaving behind an eco-friendly footprint both environmentally, culturally and economically. We also strongly advocate each one to become a responsible tourist.
Don’t know where to start, well here’s a list how can you become a Responsible Tourist:
- Charity begins at home:
Your adventure as a responsible tourist starts before you even leave the house. Before leaving for your next adventure, make sure you have done the following:
- Unplug any appliances and switch off the power mains
- Turn off the main water supply
- Suspend all your supplies
- Empty your fridge and donate the left overs to the needy
- Carry resuable cutlery and stock up your toiletries
- Carry a cloth bag
- Stay in an Eco-Friendly accommodation
Choosing to stay in an eco-friendly hotel is the first step in your responsible travel journey. Before putting down your deposit, make sure you have researched the hotel to check how eco-friendly are they.
- Minimise your flight and CO2 emissions
By booking direct flights and avoiding transfers, you can reduce your emissions. Yet, this is sometimes unavoidable. To counter this, you can use rail or road transport wherever you can. When in flight you can use the amenities only when needed. Accept full meals only when needed, avoid food waste.
- Go Local
When travelling, we can feel homesick and seek out shops or restaurants that remind us of home or our cuisine. Just be minfule that this food must have been definitely travelled miles to fulfill your craving. While there is nothing wrong with this, I’m sure you didn’t travel halfway across the world to eat exactly what you eat at home.
We all travel to explore and discover exciting new things, so make your contribution while you are uncovering the hidden gems. Buy hand made souvenir from local shops, eat with the natives and try new dishes. The best part is that by doing this, you are not only supporting sustainable travel but also helping yourself from the heavy credit card bill at the end of the trip. Saved money helps you to get on to plan for your next travel.
- Give your bargaining skills a break
I agree that the price of the most loved dress at a tourist place will be exorbitantly high but bargain only with the ones who wants to rob you for being a tourist there!
A small amount bargain might be a momentary happiness for you, but it could mean a meal for a local trader’s family. Use your judgement rationally at such places.
- Always stay up to date with the local culture
Don’t be that tourist, the one that ignores local customs, disrespects the culture and chooses to be ignorant about the country he is visiting. Be an explorer!
Before you get on that plane/ train, hit Google and learn as much as you can about local customs, traditions and health and safety. Do your research and find out what is considered rude which may be a norm in your culture; if there are any unusual laws and most important the dressing style. You would not want to look like, you are at beach when you are visiting a desert. By learning and following these local customs when you travel you will have a more authentic experience and possibly even keep yourself out of policing.
- Cut your CO2 Footprint
Think before you pick up that big plastic bag !
In developing countries, waste management is a major problem and we can unwittingly contribute towards it. The locals may be oblivious of the impact that waste has on the environment or may not have effective waste removal set up in their communities. This is where you and I as a tourist need to step in and make sure we are helping the local ecosystem. Make sure you do the following:
- Say no to plastic bags, use your own bag.
- Avoid takeaway containers where you can.
- Reuse your plastic water bottle and always carry a reusable cup.
- Go Volunteering
Looking to make a difference through your travels?
Volunteering is a great option to experience a country/ state in a responsible and ethical way. Whether you have two days, weeks, or months, do contribute. It will reward you with a rich cultural experience and help you ameliorate the key socio-economic problems. Your travel experiences will be enrisched by things otherwise you would have never experienced if you were just a tourist. Eventually, you will leave knowing you made a positive impact.
What to look out for when planning to contribute through an NGO:
- Aim should be to protect the ecosystem and the local community
- Is a registered entity
- Is transparent about their operations and activity.
- If you don’t have time to volunteer, just visit local school and gift some stationery items.
- Always use Public or Local Transport
Making use of public transport is another way you can reduce your carbon emissions footprint. Instead of taking a taxi, grab a bus/ rail ticket and travel with the locals. It’s a great way to see the place you are staying in and keep your budget healthy or just rent a bicycle and start exploring!
- Be Aware and Educate others!
Now that you should have burden yourself to travel responsibly as the trip is for you to unwind, the next best thing you can do is SHARE. Empower your friends and family to become more responsible and choose sustainable options when travelling. It is only by starting a conversation around this topic can we make every one aware of their responsibilities as a tourist and celebrate world tourism day in its true essence.
What tips do you have for becoming a responsible tourist? Let us know in the comments!