How to be a more responsible traveller

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At any one time, there are 1000 people in front of Rome’s most famous landmark, the Trevi Fountain. Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, with a global economic contribution (direct, indirect and induced) of about AU$10 billion each year. And that figure will only increase over time.

The travel and tourism industry serves globe trotters by opening the world’s doors. However, it has detrimental economic and environmental effects on local people and animals, as well as on the destinations themselves. The industry is growing but the world’s most-loved attractions remain the same size. Around the world, the tourist trade has driven up rent and the cost of living for locals. Tourists, living at their leisure, leave behind marks (sometimes literally on historic landmarks), and a trail of plastic waste and other pollution. And this doesn’t even include the general wear-and-tear of even the most ‘green-minded’ traveller.

Now, more than ever, at home and abroad, it’s important for us to not only ‘think green’ but ‘act’ it too. Here are a few simple ways that you can help.

Be considerate of over-tourism
There’s an old saying, ‘don’t go where you aren’t wanted’. This might sound tough but many destinations are so inundated with tourists that their ability to maintain landmarks and systems for keeping cities and towns liveable for locals can’t keep up with the traffic. Some cities, such as Venice and Barcelona, are even holding protests and campaigns to keep tourists out. About half of UNESCO’s 229 World Heritage Sites don’t have tourism management plans in place, but all that may change soon.

You should take care when planning a trip to places such as Cinque Terra, Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal, which have all been dealing with expanding numbers of tourists over the years. Be a smart traveller and first try to find out whether your destination has already been overloaded. Second, whether it has any restrictions on tourism visitation numbers throughout the year. And third, whether that destination has a tourism management plan.

Learn to say ‘hello’
Before you hit the road (or the sky) to your destination, take some time to get to know the basics of the local language. Having a few conversational phrases, such as ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can help to show locals that you have respect for their environment and culture. It will also transform your personal experience of travelling there.

Half the excitement of travelling in foreign countries is becoming immersed in different cultures and social customs. Try to educate yourself on local laws and customs. Something that’s normal for you might be considered offensive to locals – such as taking photographs without permission or chewing gum on the street.

Support local businesses
To reduce your carbon footprint and directly support the local economy, try to purchase products from the people who make them. Whenever possible, opt for locally made crafts from places such as market stalls, instead of mass-produced key rings, magnets and mugs. We can all agree that these make for much nicer keepsakes, anyway. When bartering for souvenirs, consider what a ‘fair price’ means, rather than a ‘good deal’.

Leave animals be
We are all animal lovers at heart. Riding an elephant in India, posing for a photo with a tiger in Thailand and even visiting the zoo sounds like a special way to connect with animals. However, animals that work at these attractions are often mistreated and overworked. According to a study from Oxford, about 75 per cent of animal attractions around the world actually perpetuate wildlife cruelty. And unfortunately, by paying admission to these attractions, you are helping to keep this going.

If riding an elephant has been a life-long dream, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Just make sure to research ethical tourism companies first. World Animal Protection (WPA) has a wonderful guide for animal-friendly holidays.

Act ‘green’
The eco-friendly habits you have at home apply everywhere else in the world, too. Try your best to switch off hotel lights before going out, take public transport as much as possible and recycle your plastic waste. Sometimes that means carrying an empty plastic bottle with you until a recycling bin can be found.

In places where drinking tap water isn’t possible, try to reduce your plastic bottle consumption by buying two-litre bottles from supermarkets and refilling your aluminium bottle. This is also an easy way to save money.

Another little piece of advice: leave no trace. Don’t carve your name into anything or leave love locks on bridges. Likewise, try to leave the special places you visit in tact; take photos and memories with you, not shells or stones. Leave it just as you found it, for the next person.

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Written by ameliath


Total Comments: 8
  1. 0

    I sort of had to laugh when I saw your reference to Italy and then the rest of the list.
    My wife and I spent months touring Italy and the word ‘respect’ took on a whole new meaning when we looked at some of the awful things we encountered.
    First thing is BEWARE of locals who smile at you. You are little more than a bank account to these people and apart from a few apparently nice locals the truth became obvious once the business relationship was done or they did not get what they wanted, your money. Not pretty.
    Then we get to the business people in Italy. The overriding word which described around half of the businesses we frequented is CROOKS. We were regularly cheated and overcharged. Never had this happen to this extent and it left a bad taste on the way out of the country.
    We even had one incident in Verona where I wanted to feel a set of shoes to ascertain whether they were leather or not and the proprietor asked “what size”? I explained several times that I would like to look at the shoe first but he just came back with the same response. When he realised I was not going to try the shoes on before I checked them out he threw us out of his shop. Whilst that was an extreme case it gives you some idea of what goes around the heads of these people and what you are to them.
    Last was the country itself. Don’t believe the glossy travel industry as Italy is not the beautiful place portrayed. Rather it is a dirty country where tourist spots are often filthy with graffiti evident everywhere (not Pisa!). Much of the country is run down and the only bright thing was shop keepers who do clean the outside of their shops and keep them spotless.

    I’m all for respect and cordiality as well as fitting in but Italy? Give it a big big miss. Serious travellers have m any better places to go and do not need to be mistreated by people who see you as a milking cow to be smiled at and then abused.

    In all fairness there are people who like Italy but they normally visit for days. We were there for months and sussed the place out. It was as stated. Good luck if you visit.

    • 0

      We were on a bus tour of Italy for a week and loved it. Yes, it isn’t too clean in the cities but the people we met were polite and friendly. If you hated it, why stay for months! Why didn’t you just pop across to France, Spain, Switzerland,Germany etc.

    • 0

      The short answer is we booked ahead, paid for a lot of what we were going to do and could not change horses in mid stream. Took 10 months to plan and organise. Had we been able to change we would have.
      Been to France. Wonderful country and highly recommended. The label of arrogant did not apply to anybody we met but we were not in Paris and I understand this is where people had issues with the French. For us, loved ’em.
      Switzerland? Not bad but have not spent a lot of time there.
      Germany? Gorgeous place. Germans can be a bit abrupt but they were never rude.
      Spain? No bull!

      Glad you enjoyed the bus tour. That gives you a totally different perspective as you are controlled by the tour operator and do not get out amongst the people. We like to do the latter because that’s where the real travel experience comes from.

  2. 0

    Glad you had an enjoyable time, Mick.

  3. 0

    When you do your ‘touring’ on a bicycle, you very quickly learn to “take only photographs and leave only footprints.” And you get up close and personal with both the country and its people pretty quickly.

  4. 0

    Fake news. Codswallop to say the least. Always about respecting “their” environment and culture. Funny when visitors come to Australia we are also expected to respect their culture. Never the other way round. Sick of it all to be honest. Australia needs to stop pandering to all these so-called cultures.

    • 0

      Yes mate. A pie with sauce and a can of Fosters with Akubra on my head – that is the culture I like. And I was born in Europe.



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