People are inspired to travel because they’re curious and fascinated by the world around them. Which is great! The world is a beautiful, exciting place. But travel can have negative impacts on that world we love so much. Which is why responsible travel matters.
Responsible travel has become a buzz word lately, but it’s so much more than a marketing trend. Whether you call it responsible, sustainable, or eco-friendly, it all basically means traveling in a way that minimizes impact and gives back to the places we visit. Promoting this type of tourism is critical if we want to continue enjoying the natural beauty, the culture, and the interactions that make travel so special.
Responsible travel can have a significantly positive impact on both traveler and local. Here are seven reasons why this increasingly popular travel style is becoming increasingly necessary.
1. Responsible Travel benefits the local community
When we fall in love with a new place, we have the locals to thank. They are the ones who cherish those places as home. They work there, live there, love there, and infuse those places with the culture, color, and personality, that draw tourists in. But so often, tourism does not directly benefit the locals. Big companies that exist outside of the locations in which they operate often fail to contribute to the local economy.
Responsible travel focuses on keeping things local. Responsible tourists shop locally and use their dollars to support the people who live there.
Volunteering can be an important component of responsible tourism, if done correctly. It’s a great way to give back to a place, rather than simply take. Discover Corps supports the local communities in which we operate tours, through cultural consideration and supporting the local economy.
2. Responsible Travel helps preserve the culture.
Experiencing the unique culture of different places is one of the greatest aspects of travel. But local cultures can easily be overrun by outside forces when tourism descends on a new place. Foreign tour operators and travelers can overwhelm a local culture with their own, which slowly defeats the purpose.
Responsible travel preserves local culture through respect, education, and monetary support. Rather than building new attractions that conform to the culture we’re familiar with, responsible tourism seeks to support the existing resources and available experiences.
By eating the local food, learning about the local arts, and dedicating our dollars to the local craftsmen and artisans at markets and small shops, we have a more genuine experience with the local culture and also help to preserve that culture for future generations to come.
Indigenous cultures often face the greatest challenges in preserving their roots. By educating ourselves and celebrating the rich heritage of these indigenous cultures when we travel, we help them hold on to the traditions and the way of life that have been passed down for generations.
3. Responsible Travel helps preserve the environment.
The environmental impact of travel is huge. Even the most eco-conscious individuals will create a big carbon footprint when they choose to board an airplane to go somewhere. CO2 emissions from international flights have increased a whopping 83% since 1990. But there are ways to offset that footprint, and decrease our environmental impact elsewhere along our journeys.
Travelers can reduce their environmental impact by traveling light, walking instead of driving whenever possible, carrying reusable water bottles, purchasing carbon offsets for air travel, and respecting the natural resources.
So many of us travel, in part, to enjoy the beauty of nature around the world. But that natural beauty is at risk if we don’t seek to protect it. Responsible tourism encourages us to do just that.
4. Responsible Travel provides jobs for locals.
The tourism industry can be a huge supplier of employment to a local community, but only when the tourism companies operate in a responsible manner. Responsible tourism operators seek to keep jobs local. The positions of guide, cook, host, translator, and so many more can provide necessary employment to people who may be struggling to find it otherwise.
Filling these positions locally creates a better experience for everyone involved. Locals get to share their culture with visitors, while earning a healthy income, and visitors are treated to the wealth of knowledge and expertise that locals have to offer.
5. Responsible Travel makes travel more enjoyable.
The knowledge that we are doing our best to support the local communities and the natural environment when we travel can make travel much more enjoyable. When travel is about mutual benefits for both visitors and locals, everyone involved can have a more positive experience.
If tourism is taking more than it is giving back, that creates a negative view of tourists. Locals may begin to resent the operators and the visitors to their country, because they see and experience the ways that travel has negatively affected their home.
But when we travel responsibly, visitors and locals can enjoy and protect the beautiful places they wish to experience.
6. We can’t keep traveling without being responsible.
Without responsible tourism, travel is less sustainable. When we fail to consider our impact on the places we travel to, we fail to protect them for the future. Some of those places may even disappear.
Consider Australia’s incredible Great Barrier Reef, home to billions of organisms. The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s most visited attractions. Travelers are drawn to its biodiversity and its natural beauty. But those aspects are precisely what’s being damages when we fail to travel responsibly.
A little research can go a long way. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority offers a page with specific information on how to responsibly enjoy this natural wonder.
Responsible travel encourages travelers to constantly be educating themselves on how to reduce their impact on places like the Great Barrier Reef, so that we can continue to see and experience them.
7. Our kids will travel responsibly, too.
We love family travel here at Discover Corps. The best kind of family travel teaches our children the responsible travel practices that will enable them to have these experiences with their kids someday, too. By supporting responsible travel with our children, we’re showing them what it looks like to travel more responsibly. They learn to appreciate the local culture, respect the local resources, and understand their impact on the world around them.
Responsible travel can create richer experiences for the whole family, and by teaching our children the importance of responsible tourism, we can keep making travel better for future generations.
Without responsible travel, we risk losing everything that we love about travel. The world deserves responsible tourism, and so do we.
BIO: Britany Robinson is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her works appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, The Daily Dot and more. Her blog, Travel Write Away, shares advice and musings on travel writing. When she’s not planning her next big trip, she’s scoping out Portland craft beers and local hikes.