Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A brief guide to Responsible Tourism

There are a lot of blog posts out there talking about ecotourism and how to travel green, even we have published one such blog before. But today, I wanted to talk about something different, something that will relate to you, whether you have green goals or are just looking for a fun time holiday. You can still be a responsible tourist, even if you don't have the inclination to go 100% green for your adventures.

Being a responsible tourist is quite simple really, you don't have to go out and buy recycled products or buy 'ocean friendly' suncream (though it wouldn't hurt!), you just need to stop and think. Check out our list of ways to be responsible whilst travelling, follow these and you never know, you might just experience something new.

1. Litter

This one may seem pretty obvious, but it is amazing how careless people often become on holiday. If you go to the beach or park and take a picnic or containers with you, be smart and take a plastic bag so you can bag it all when you have finished and carry it to a bin, don't leave it in the hope someone picks it up.

2. Touching stuff

As a race, we humans have an uncanny ability to touch everything. Someone once said "look with your eyes, not your hands". Whilst you may not realise it, a lot of stuff is alive, we witness countless numbers of people touching and standing on corals in Perhentian, this is no good for either the corals or for you. Corals are sharp and can give quite a nasty cut, and they are fragile animals, easily stressed out. Think about how many tourists visit a location, if everyone touches the same thing, then chances are it won't last long

3. Interactions with Wildlife

It has been widely documented that feeding animals (fish, reindeer, hippos, lions whichever) changes the behaviour of the animal, it can upset the balance of the ecosystem, encouraging greater numbers of some species and increasing aggression in animal populations. It has also been suggested that human food (bread etc) is not a natural diet and can result in sickness or death in some species!

4. Stick to the Path

You have probably noticed in your local park that there are paths, put in place by the council for people to walk along, nice tarmacked paths which are easy to follow. This isn't always the case in developing countries or remote areas, there are usually designated pathways though, even if they are not so easily noticeable. They are there for a reason, stick to them, if people start meandering through the undergrowth and off the path it isn't just a danger to themselves, it starts erosion, wearing away the grass or undergrowth. Once it starts to wear away, more people will join in and get eroding as it looks like a path.

5. Respect the Culture

Whether you are visiting a country in Europe, America, Asia or Australia, you will meet people of different backgrounds and cultures. Just because they dress differently or have a different religion to you, doesn't mean they are wrong or to be avoided. Be friendly, get into the spirit of the locals, dress appropriately, if you are in a Muslim village or country, don't walk around in a bikini, be respectful and engage locals and kids in conversation. You'd be amazed at the amount of awesome people in the world.

6. Transport 

We spoke about this in our ecotourism blog, but it rings true here as well. If you want to experience a country properly, use public transport, don't rent a car. Not only will you contribute money directly to the wider economy, but you will see the country in a whole new light. Nothing beats zooming across the countryside on a rickety old train surrounded by local people and foods!

7. Think Local

I always get shocked when I see someone ordering Macaroni Cheese, or Burger and Chips when in Perhentian. Open your mind (and your taste buds) to the amazing food you find in different countries. Eating local foods benefits you and the locals. Ordering your home foods in a foreign country will result in two outcomes. (1) Food will likely be from frozen and unlocally sourced (2) Lower quality meal as locals are not expert chefs in foreign foods. So don't be afraid, try everything once.

We all travel thousands of miles just to watch TV and check in to somewhere with all the comforts of home, and you gotta ask yourself, what is the point of that?
(The Beach)

Seriously, what is the point in that?

There are obviously more things you can do, but follow these steps and your holidays will become something more. You will meet amazing people, taste fantastic food and feel so much better for it. Break the norm of human behaviour and experience life.