There has been much talk about responsible travel in recent times, with awards, accreditation and claims of ‘green travel’ seemingly in abundance. Authentic experiences are often high on our clients’ holiday wish list, and if the well-being of the communities and natural environments you visit are important to you, our short guide will help to ensure that you receive the warmest of welcomes wherever you visit.
1. Put money directly into the local community
• Buy locally made crafts to take home, helping to provide vital income and keep traditions alive
• Don’t over haggle… pay what you think is fair – a few extra dollars may make all the difference, especially where tourism is seasonal
• Try to eat out locally… this is not always possible but every little counts so have a drink in a local bar or book a local excursion where you can
• Tipping is a complex issue, but as a general rule tip little and often to help support many incomes. Your travel consultant can provide advice on tipping guides and drivers
Our Cape Town Township tour - organised by local company Cape Capers - includes an opportunity to purchase locally-made craft and artefacts.
2. Be sensitive to other cultures
• Read up a little and talk with your travel consultant before you go to be aware of local customs and practices. Consider learning a few words of the language too
• Dress appropriately, particularly outside your hotel, bearing in mind local sensibilities, particularly when visiting a temple or a mosque
• Children are usually keen to have their picture taken and will love to see shots of themselves but always ask before you take photos of people, particularly in Muslim countries where women are not allowed to be photographed
• Where appropriate, consider taking public transport… it’s a great way to start chatting to people
Like many of the lodges Rainbow Tours works with in the Masai Mara, most of the employees at Saruni Mara are from the surrounding areas, and guests have a chance to learn about the culture first-hand from the Maasai warriors.
3. Use precious resources sparingly
• Think about your water consumption and only use what you need – take short showers not baths, and avoid requesting clean towels or sheets every day
• Turn off air-conditioning and lights when not in your room
• Take home objects like used batteries that require complex recycling as waste disposal is a major expense in developing countries
• Take your own re-usable shopping bags and water bottles, rather than buying in countries where they don’t get recycled
In Ecuador's Amazon, many lodges are owned by or directly benefit the local indigenous communities, and each of them provides a opportunity to experince traditional life in the rainforest.
4. Actively support local charities and conservation efforts
• Safari concessions, national parks, game reserves and wildlife sanctuaries all help to preserve natural habitats, flora and fauna. Entrance fees are a vital part of income generation
• Donating to a charity or NGO that will have a lasting effect – we can make suitable recommendations
• Donating to a local school or orphanage – don’t simply hand out sweets to children you meet, consider schemes such as Pack with a Purpose, which support a school near where you are going and can tell you which items are most needed
A stay at Anjajavy in Madagascar helps the hotel to support the local school at Ambondro Ampasy.
5. Choose your accommodation carefully
Ask our travel consultant to suggest lodges and hotels that have strong social and environmental practices. Some things to look out for are:
• A robust commitment to the environment that includes use of bio-degradable toiletries and cleaning materials, solar power alternatives particularly in wilderness areas, properties that sanitise and filter their own water reducing the need for plastic bottles
• Employment and training opportunities for local people. In remote areas there may not always a huge of choice of hotels, but in most regions you will find properties that operate ethical employment practices
• City hotels that distribute excess food to homeless people and support street children, a serious problem in many developing countries.
Trainee chefs at Hog Hollow Country Lodge on South Africa's Garden Route. The lodge is a model of Responsible Tourism and is accredited by Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA)
We may not know all the answers to the big responsible travel questions, but as company Rainbow Tours is committed to ever increasing our knowledge and finding ways to help all our customers make a positive difference. If tourism is to be sustainable it needs to ensure it improves the lives of the people in the countries visited. Please do add your comments to this blog.
There are a number of excellent organisations that are leading the debate about sustainable travel and their websites are well worth visiting: Tourism Concern, The Travel Foundation and Harrold Goodwin’s blog.