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What is a Responsible Tourist? (And our guide to being one)

Tourism is on the rise, and understandably so, the world is full of spectacular sights and unique wildlife, that everyone should see in their lifetime. However, this increased exploration is sometimes being actioned in a manner that is impacting local communities and resources. Strong campaigns are in motion to stand up for the well-being of our planet - our continued mistreatment of it is leaving damning effects.

In 2018, around 1.4 billion tourists travelled to foreign countries and this statistic keeps increasing. We are strong advocates of travel, however, it is important that we are acting responsibly and preserving the beautiful, unique wildlife and communities that inhabit this world.

Dolphins jumping out of water

There are a number of small steps we can all take whilst travelling to minimise the negative impacts commercial tourism can have - so we can all become responsible tourists.

What is responsible tourism?

Responsible tourism tackles this issue on a personal level - how can YOU make a difference?
It strives to reduce the negative social, economic and environmental impacts tourism has on the local communities we visit.
Increased tourism has allowed extra the opportunity for damage to the environment, however making choices and acting in a manner that supports the longevity of these communities is what responsible tourism is about.

Respecting the environment and improving, not damaging, the quality of life of the local community is paramount to being a responsible tourist.

There are a lot of misconceptions around responsible tourism – you don’t have to be a super eco-warrior to be a responsible tourist; you just have to be a positive force, as opposed to a negative one.

Why is responsible tourism important?

Sustainable tourism that benefits the local people whilst preserving the local nature and culture is essential. However, cases of ‘overtourism’ have damaged many beloved destinations.

What is 'overtourism'?

‘Overtourism’ is when a landmark/destination receives excessive visitor numbers that are detrimental to the local community, wildlife, or tourist experience.

Venice is an example of a city that has been affected by ‘overtourism’. Venice is now home to about 55,000 local residents. However, the number of tourists that visit each year totals around 20 million!

Venice Grand Canal and Basilica gondola

There are obvious benefits of tourism, but tourism of this extent has strong negative effects. ‘Overtourism’ can cause damage to infrastructure; unrest with the locals due to the inconvenience of masses of tourists; and can also affect the experience for the tourists themselves (visiting a site surrounded by crowds of people detracts from its natural beauty).

In a lot of cases, responsible tourism is a matter of respect for the local traditions, cultures and the environment. It’s important to be ‘culturally sensitive’ in order to preserve the well-being of the local communities, boost their economy and fully immerse yourself in your travels.

In a conversation with the Center for Responsible Travel, Randy Durband, CEO of Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), said:

"Sustainable or responsible travel and tourism hit the mainstream media in a bigger way than ever before in 2017 due to the growing awareness of what's being called 'overtourism.' I hope that this mainstreaming of the discussion of tourism in general and poor or weak visitor management, in particular, will help drive greater awareness of the much broader and deeper discussions we need to make all forms of travel and tourism more sustainable."

How to be a responsible tourist

Here are just a few simple tips for you to consider to help make your trips more sustainable:

Stay several nights

Some locations have high day-tourism, whereby visitors populate the city just for the daytime and leave. Staying overnight helps support local hotels and similar establishments.

Support the local economy

Dining in local restaurants, purchasing locally made souvenirs and gifts, visiting the local markets and use a local tour guide… pretty much anything local! This way you know your money is being fed back into the community and to the people who are hosting you, not some unknown corporate organisation.

Explore non-popular areas

One reason ‘overtourism’ occurs is due to people wanting to see the same sights. When visiting cities there are stand-out attractions to visit - obviously you’ll want to see these and we want you to also - but think about the hidden gems that can be found off the beaten track.

Become a temporary local, not a tourist

Minimise transport

72% of tourism’s CO2 emissions are down to transport, so if possible explore places on foot and take advantages of cheap public buses/trains or more local inventive modes such as tuk-tuk.

Don’t purchase endangered species produce

This includes crocodile skin goods, bushmeat and tortoiseshell to name a few. The demand for these products supports wildlife crime, illegal trade and the deterioration of species populations across the globe.
You may be interested in seeing the work we have done with WDC in conserving whales and dolphin or reading up on ethical safaris?

Avoid taking ‘natural souvenirs’

The idea of owning a piece of the Great Wall of China or shells from the Great Barrier Reef may be exciting to some, but not ethical or sustainable. You could be upsetting the natural ecosystem, or some foreign species might catch a ride back with you that will upset your home ecosystem! Stick to the local shops for souvenirs

Last but not least, one which we should all be doing anyway… don’t litter!

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Final thoughts...

There seems to be a shift towards more socially conscious travellers. When people are looking for new adventures, they are seeking out opportunities to immerse themselves in the culture, people and nature of a location.
This is furthered with millennials are being considered a more conscious traveller than others, considering the environment much more.
So there we have it, follow our guide and we’re well on the way to maintaining our beautiful world.

For more articles, please visit our blog.

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