Travel. Explore. Be responsible.
As an avid traveller, I have been to far off places, met amazing people in all parts of the globe and created enough memories to last till I’m old and wrinkled.
These travels have also exposed me to the impact of pollution, overcrowding in tourist places and cultural destruction on Earth.
On our visit to Pangong Tso, Ladakh I was shocked to see littered coke cans, used water bottles and plastic strewn around. We faced a similar sight in Seminyak Beach in Bali and Calangute Beach in Goa. Nainital becomes a crowded city rather than a refreshing hill station every summer with crowds from the plains thronging there for their summer vacations. Heavily polluted cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Colombo choke in smog and are bursting at the seams as they struggle to cope with heavy crowds. Beachside places in Goa turn into drunk backpacker party spots. Go to Jaipur and you’ll see how elephants are overworked to carry tourists up the forts.
Sadly, it is travel and tourism that is a contributory factor in destroying our beautiful planet. Travellers and backpackers hop from one place to another exploring places and taking a zillion photographs but their irresponsible attitude is creating a menace of beautiful places. What can we do?
For the last few years, there has been more consciousness about zero carbon footprint, eco-tourism and responsible tourism.
What is Responsible Tourism?
By “Responsible Tourism” we mean travel and tourism which –
- reduces the negative economic, environmental and social impact.
- creates higher economic benefits for the local inhabitants.
- improves the well-being and working conditions of local people.
- encourages local people to contribute to decisions that affect their lives and life changes.
- leads to positive contributions to natural and cultural heritage conservation
- offers enjoyable experiences for tourists wherein meaningful connections are made with the local people so that they can understand the local cultural, social and environmental issues
- generates greater respect between tourists and hosts and helps build local pride.
Responsible travel is the umbrella term for ethical issues such as wildlife tourism, social inclusion of local communities, environmental preservation and conservation, and ways to protect and improve the world we live in. Responsible ecotourism elucidates the social responsibility of the tourist. It involves an active awareness of nature and the effect travel has on destinations, cultures and people of the world. It highlights being respectful of local communities when we travel.
RESPONSIBLE TOURISM EMBRACES LOCAL EXPERIENCES
A responsible holiday ensures that the money you spend stays locally by making wise choices. For example, choosing a family-owned lodge rather than booking a five-star property. It involves eating fresh, local food and celebrating local cuisines as a part of their culture. It is immersing in the life of the host region and relishing experiences that you may be unfamiliar with. It could be a kayaking experience with the local guide or a vegetable shopping experience or cooking classes that incorporates local ingredients.
RESPONSIBLE TOURISM IS EMOTIONAL
Respecting people and their habitat is the crux of responsible tourism. It is accepting the culture and embracing their lifestyle in a dignified manner. Whether it is enjoying a highly colourful and highly tasty tour where you indulge in grape picking and vinification in Nouvelle-Aquitaine or learning about the ceremonies in Maasai tribe, Kenya including Enkipaata (senior boy ceremony), Emuratta (circumcision), Enkiama (marriage) or seated in a houseboat in Kerala watching life pass by in a village, tourism of this nature helps one learn about people of the world. It is in that way, evokes emotions of love and humanity.
In times of need such as post-earthquake in Nepal, post Tsunami in Sri Lanka or post-conflict in Bosnia Herzegovina, travel companies establish foundations to raise funds and donations through charity and provide their unflinching support by helping in every which way to farmers, hikers, cyclists or homestay owners.
EVERYONE CAN BE RESPONSIBLE
A highly Instagrammable five-star eco-lodge twenty feet off the ground in Harads, Sweden or responsible tourists who enjoy snorkelling, hiking and biking or someone who promotes the minimum use of motor vehicles, the truth is that we can be responsible in every instance. We can all cooperate with local and organic producers, adopt low carbon transport, support local people, respect their culture, provide fair working conditions, and behave responsibly with nature.
RESPONSIBLE TOURISM MAKES HOSTS A PRIORITY
Responsible tourism keeps the hosts a priority. Creating benefits for them and better places to live in will eventually lead to tourists getting better places to visit and happier experiences. It creates greater employment opportunities for the local people, better wages and good employment conditions. It takes into account the livelihood, landscape, and culture of the area in mind so they all flourish in sync.
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