Tips for Responsible Travel
Responsible tourism is a phrase you’ll have heard about lately - but what does it actually mean and how does it work? Responsible travel refers to travel which, essentially, means that you leave as little trace of your trip as possible. A major part of this is an effort to only support activities which empower and uplift communities, don’t harm the environment, and are kind to animals, amongst others. So what can you do to become a more responsible traveller?
Consider the Environment
Acting in an eco-friendly way is a major part of being a responsible traveller. For instance, those travelling to Cape Town are expected to save water; but this should be a standard travel practice. Don’t take super-long showers, try to use your towels for a few days instead of asking for a clean one every day, and so on.
It’s also important to clear up after yourself, especially if you’re camping, braaing, or doing something else in a public space where littering is commonplace. Leave the area exactly as you found it – that includes not damaging plants or trees to set up camp, or disturbing the ecosystem.
You can also try to take shared transport to reduce your carbon footprint, and travel with a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic ones.
Keep Animal Welfare Top Of Mind
While animal interactions might sound tempting, the reality is that many of these experiences involve exploitation and animal cruelty. A good rule of thumb? Wildlife belongs in the wild.
Be wise when picking any animal activity – a free-roaming Big Five reserve for instance, is fine. Many conservation-driven projects are fine, provided they don’t promote activities like touching and playing with the animals. Elephant rides, wild animal interactions and circuses, for instance, are probably not.
Another way to travel responsibly is to support local small businesses. If you love a piece of art that’s made by a painter in the small town you’re visiting and decide to buy it as a souvenir instead of a mass-produced fridge magnet, that’s a great start. Supporting local businesses could mean staying in a locally-owned hotel instead of a five star chain. It could mean eating at a street food stall or a restaurant run by a local family instead of grabbing a McDonalds. Buying groceries from markets or small vendors will help the community more than buying them from a large chain. Remember though, that while haggling is often acceptable and encouraged, these small businesses still have to make a profit. It’s important, therefore, that you are willing to pay a fair price out of respect for the livelihoods of the seller.