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Ethical Travel : What Would An Eco-Friendly Tourist Look Like

Tourism is the driving force for economic growth in some of the lesser-developed countries. This means that some of the most beautiful and untouched areas of the world have opened up their doors to allow travellers to visit from across the globe. Despite the abundant flow of tourists contributing to economic growth, this has also led to a surge in unsustainable tourism. If you have not heard of unsustainable tourism, you may unknowingly be a contributor to its destruction.

The key to being a more ethical tourist first starts with understanding what unethical practices take place as a result of tourism. Only then can you take the steps to be more conscious about decision-making when travelling. In this blog, we will share what an ethical tourist looks like, in addition to how you can become more eco-conscious.

What is ethical tourism?

Ethical tourism has emerged as a way to travel more responsibly. This means prioritising positive benefits to the local economy, environment, culture, and minimising harm to all listed as a bare minimum. With this emergence of a topic, it is also important to note the impact that unsustainable tourism has had on several countries. For example, transport-related emissions from tourism were responsible for 5% of human-made global carbon dioxide emissions. In addition to pollution, tourism contributes to a rift in cultures when badly behaved tourists fail to respect the culture and traditions of the country they visit. These are just a few examples of irresponsible tourism, but the full scope of its impact, and the effect it will have if continued are even more damaging to consider.

How to become an ethical tourist

Becoming a more self-aware, ethical tourist does not involve rewriting your getaways as you know them. Instead, there are just a few simple ways to be ethical when you travel, and we will share them!

Dine at local, family-owned businesses

There is nothing better than enjoying local cuisine to submerge yourself in the cultural experience. Unfortunately, some Western companies have also seen this opportunity to bring ‘home’ fast food chains to growing countries, ultimately growing the pipeline of finance heading back to them. Realistically, you should avoid dining at such fast-food restaurants and make the most of family-owned businesses within the community. This will ensure that finances stay within the community and support its growth. Plus, what is better than having the traditional dishes from the people who embody your new cultural discovery?

Choose low-tourism areas

Leading on from badly behaved tourists, locals are becoming distressed at the impact mass tourism is having on their hometowns. For example, locals in tourist hot spots such as Ibiza and Mallorca are protesting against tourism due to the impact it is placing on the environment, and more importantly their quality of life. If you want to avoid adding to an ongoing problem, it would be a good idea to opt for low-tourism areas. Research countries or towns that are primarily homed to locals, instead of locations with mass resorts. You will be funding the community’s economy, without being a part of an unsustainable mess.

Avoid animal exploitation

While the idea of riding elephants and petting tigers sounds appealing, it is important to know the terrible conditions these animals are kept in. There are thousands and tourist schemes that aim to attract tourists to experience animal encounters and said ‘sanctuaries’. Unfortunately, many of these animals have been poached from their habitats illegally, and lately used for exploitation. It is best to avoid such experiences altogether. There are a few reputable sanctuaries that do accept volunteers, but do not trust any locations that allow you to ‘pet’ or ride the animals, as they are likely being forced or sedated to prevent stress responses. 

Adjust to local cultures

When visiting locations such as Southeast Asia, you need to be mindful of local traditions and cultures. For example, some prominent Muslim locations do not like couples who are not wed to stay in the same room together. Or, some locations ask that people stay covered up when visiting holy places such as temples, and therefore require the appropriate hijab and abaya to be worn. Research the location you are visiting and be sure you are behaving appropriately and in line with cultural traditions.

Reduce carbon footprint

Sustainable travel is possible with the right methods of getting from place to place. While carbon emissions may not be avoided entirely, there are easy ways you can avoid contributing to its growth within the countries you visit. For example, if you can drive to said country within a day, then consider renting an electric car to do so. Or, once you have settled and intend to do some travelling, opt for an electric scooter for sightseeing.

Bottom line

Ethical tourism is something everyone should keep in mind when travelling. While it may not be possible to engage in net carbon 0 travel, you can instead make small adjustments as suggested to be a more mindful tourist. Happy travels!

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