Traveling to 21 countries around the world has taught me so many things. More than I could have ever learned from many sleepless nights with my nose deep inside the pages of a worn atlas.
The importance of responsible tourism became clear to me years ago on a particularly hot, South African day while listening to our butler, Thomas, tell us about his life, his land and his heritage. I wish you could have seen the way his eyes lit up when he talked about all the ways in which our safari lodge was helping to protect the wildlife in their corner of Kruger National Park, but also support the native people, like himself.
It was then I realized, that if I were to continue to have such good fortune to be able to travel the world, I should most certainly be finding ways to give back along the way. Being a more responsible traveler has never been easier. Here are just a few of the ways we can all make a difference.
5 Ways to Be a More Responsible Tourist
Choosing the right hotel.
It takes only a few extra minutes of research while you are deciding on a hotel. Find out if they are involved in any local charities. Do they give back to the surrounding communities? Support the people and the environment?
Try this: Shangri-la, Marriott, and Virgin hotels and resorts are just a few examples of companies who are proactively giving back in various ways around the world.
- Shopping local.
If you're anything like me, shopping is pretty high on your priority list while traveling. Rather than purchasing mass produced items, look for items made and sold by local artisans.
Try this: Ask your hotel concierge where to go to find some unique and authentic local goods. Or take a page out of my travelogue and eat your way through the local markets stuffing yourself with fresh produce, breads and cheeses along the way.
- Cautious giving.
Resist the urge to hand out junk food and money to young children. You may be unknowingly contributing to issues that are causing more harm than good.
Try this: Contact local charities and find out what items are needed, where and how you can donate your time or items.
- "Take only memories, leave only footprints."
It's a really simple thing that makes such a huge difference. Don't take things from the local habitat like sand, rocks, shells...whatever. Leave it there for future tourists to enjoy. I mean, did you really need that baggie of black sand?
Try this: Find a local artisan who uses area resources to craft unique gifts which you can buy and take home.
- Just say no to live animal displays.
Try to avoid money generating animal displays (think snake, bear, and monkey photo ops) as sometimes these animals are taken from the wild and mistreated.
Try this: Find a local animal rehabilitation facility that put their resources into saving and rehabbing animals.
"If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never spent the night with a mosquito." - African Proverb