Responsible Travel 101: Everything you need to know
On April 22nd, the world celebrates Earth Day. For those of us who love to travel, it’s an important day to reflect on how we can protect our planet while we journey across it. Travel opens our eyes to incredible places, people and ways of life, from spectacular natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef to unique celebrations like Holi in India. Travellers have a responsibility to preserve the rich cultural tapestries and biodiversity that make the world so amazing. By making the earth a better place for people to live, we are also making it better for people to travel. That’s where responsible travel can play a role.
What is responsible travel?
Responsible travel is a philosophy that believes travel should have a positive impact on the world. It goes by many names – eco-tourism, sustainable travel, green holidays and more – but the goal is the same: to leave a place better than you found it.
Why is responsible travel so important?
Travel and tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world, making it a massive force for change – both good and bad. As society has become aware of the effects tourism can have on a destination, businesses and tourists alike are embracing more thoughtful travel. By working to create lasting economic, social and environmental benefits on the places we visit, the industry can tip the balance towards good.
Is responsible travel for everyone?
You don’t need to be part of the travel industry or a member of an NGO to play your part. Responsible travel isn’t a club or a set of rules – it’s a philosophy that guides behaviour. Some people live that philosophy by volunteering in local communities or educating others about the environmental impact of their decisions. Others play their part by simply becoming more conscious of how their actions affect the places they visit. There’s no one set path – we can all get involved in our own way.
How do I travel more responsibly?
Believe it or not, only a few small changes in behaviour can make a big difference – choosing to buy and eat local or packing a reusable plastic bottle to take on excursions, for example. The trick is to get into the habit of thinking about what’s best for the local environment and community when planning where to stay, what to do, and where to eat. Eventually, it becomes second nature and the effects start to add up. Check out more simple actions you can take when you travel here.
The great thing is that responsible travel doesn’t take away from the joy of seeing the world – it leads to more rewarding, authentic experiences.
How can I support companies that practice responsible travel?
Many companies play up how eco-friendly they are, but it’s important to see if they actually walk the walk. Don’t just trust what’s on their website – a bit of research can help you spot the real deal. For larger hotel chains and global tour companies, it’s wise to check if they are accredited or partnered with a recognised sustainable travel organisation such as the Global Sustainable Tourism Council or the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa. For smaller or independent operators, try find out whether they are locally owned or employ local employees. Check to see that the experiences they offer don’t exploit wildlife or have potential to harm the environment.
Don’t be afraid to ask your travel provider questions about what they are doing support the local community or environment. Those who are committed to responsible travel will be honest and transparent, not just about what they’re doing right but about what they can do better.