The world’s most treasured places are precious. We have a responsibility to help make sure they stay that way. Here are some tips on how you can ensure you have a positive impact on the people you meet and places you visit while also having a more enjoyable, authentic experience on your holiday. These tips have been compiled with the help of the sustainable tourism experts, the Travel Foundation.
Buying local means the money you spend on holiday stays in the local economy. Ask your Travel Counsellor to suggest excursions using local companies and guides. When you arrive, try to buy locally-made souvenirs and go to local bars, cafes and restaurants to eat local specialities (usually prepared with locally-grown fresh produce!). Your Travel Counsellor can advise you on what local treats to look out for at your chosen destination.
You can also use your consumer choices to show you care about the environment. Choose public transport where possible, and bring eco-friendly suntan cream, mosquito repellent and other toiletries with you – especially if you are going swimming or off the beaten track. Order sustainable fish dishes (check the MSC’s Good Fish Guide online) and avoid any souvenirs made from shells, coral or endangered species.
Keep your footprint small
We all do our bit at home to manage the amount of rubbish we produce, and our water and energy use. In other countries this is usually even more important. For instance, there may be very little access to freshwater, or no local recycling services. Remember the basics: take short showers rather than baths, reuse towels and bed linen, turn down/off heating and air-conditioning when not required, turn off all lights and appliances when you leave your room. Leave packaging from things you bought for your trip at home. Not only will it give you more space in your suitcase, you won’t be bringing your rubbish to somewhere which might not be able to recycle it. Consider using a reusable water bottle that can filter water, to avoid the build-up of empty plastic bottles. In some countries everything you buy seems to be put in a plastic bag – take your own reusable one to counter this! And it’s easy to say no to plastic drinking straws.
Respect local culture, traditions and wildlife
Do a little background reading before you go away or ask your Travel Counsellor for advice on how to dress and act appropriately for the place that you are visiting. Learning a few words of the local language (hello and thank you as a minimum!) is always appreciated. It’s usually polite to ask permission before taking photographs of people. Be wary of excursions that involve animals in captivity or interaction with wild animals (such as elephant rides or swimming with dolphins). Ask your Travel Counsellor for advice, or opt for wildlife tours with qualified guides where you can see animals in their natural habitats.
Many travellers would like to know if there’s something they can give out, instead of money, as a donation – for instance giving children pens for schools. If you would like to give back, consider donating to a local charity that is involved in social or conservation projects, or support the Travel Foundation, a charity with projects in many popular holiday destinations around the world. It's also reassuring to know that when you book with Travel Counsellors you are travelling with a company that actively supports and donates towards this charity too. Another way you can give back is to give feedback! Tell hotels and other businesses that you want them to operate sustainably and offer suggestions. If they know there is customer demand, they’ll respond much more quickly. Also, let your Travel Counsellor know the people and businesses you met who went the extra mile to look after the environment and support local communities – or if anything you experienced gave you cause for concern.
These tips will stand you in good stead wherever you travel. However, the best advice you can get will be specific to you – based on where you go and what you do. For instance, if you are travelling somewhere where water is particularly scarce (perhaps causing issues with local availability) your Travel Counsellor can give you ideas beyond the basics of opting to shower instead of bath. Perhaps choosing your accommodation will be particularly important, as visitors to some hotels consume many times more water than they would otherwise. Ask your Travel Counsellor for the issues that are particularly relevant to your holiday – they can give you advice on the right steps for a positive impact.