1. Get Inspired by Meaningful Travel
This is all about the in-depth exploration of a destination, focusing on making a lasting impact. It is about getting to know one place well and connecting with its people. This can have many additional benefits for you as the traveller, for the local community and for the environment.
2. Choose a Sustainable Tour Operator
If you are planning to book your holidays with a tour operator, choose with care. There are plenty of operators that offer fantastic cultural and natural immersive experiences while ensuring positive social and environmental impacts on the destination and its local communities. They design journeys to encourage responsible tourism by inspiring and educating travellers to respect the environment and communities they visit!
3. Select your Accommodation carefully
Every type of accommodation can be sustainable, from a hotel to a homestay, as long as you look for the right certifications. Homestays benefit the livelihoods of local communities and contribute to the local economy. Staying in a hotel contributes to maintaining jobs and creating opportunities. Many hotels have been adopting sustainable practices from waste management to water and energy conservation, and have meaningfully engaged in important social and environmental causes. Before booking, you can look for sustainable tourism certifications- these can help make a positive impact.
4. Pack Light and Smart
Try to travel as light as possible to reduce the impact of your luggage on your carbon emissions. Every additional kilo you pack implies additional fuel! You should also consider packing items that help reduce plastic waste, such as a reusable mask, a refillable bottle, a water purifier or filter, a reusable bag, and your own toiletries; you would be surprised at how much they can make a difference.
5. Discover your Destination Responsibly
Consider exploring your destination in a responsible way. These options are friendlier to the environment and your wallet, and can also be fun!
6. Eat Locally-sourced Food
Choosing restaurants with locally sourced foods and visiting locally owned farmers markets and food stands, will not only help support local communities and their economies but also reduce the environmental impact of your meal!
7. Make a positive Social Impact
A nice way to give back to the destination is by supporting local businesses and artisans. If you would like to get some souvenirs, try looking for art and craft fairs, boutiques, and other small businesses. By purchasing locally made items, you will be contributing to the preservation of local traditions and cultural heritage. Similarly, if you take part in guided tours, make sure it is guided by locals and that the main benefits go to them. If you are thinking of volunteering during your stay, do your research to ensure it is supported by and benefits local communities directly.
8. Support Animal Welfare and Nature Preservation
Visiting places of exceptional natural beauty and observing wildlife may be a reason for your travels. To ensure that you have a positive impact on the animals and biodiversity in the destinations you are exploring, you should look for tours that respect wildlife and keep a safe distance from any animals. Make sure you only take part in attractions that treat animals in a humane way and do not impact negatively on their wellbeing. You should opt for wildlife sanctuaries and accredited rehabilitation centres where you can help protect rescued and orphaned animals. To preserve marine biodiversity, such as corals, choose a sunscreen that does not damage marine life; and when scuba diving or snorkelling, do so responsibly to make sure you aren’t treading on the coral. You should also always take your waste with you to have a minimal footprint on the ecosystem. Finally, to avoid incentivising wildlife exploitation, do not purchase wildlife products from endangered species.
9. Respect Local Culture and Traditions
Being a responsible and conscious traveller involves a genuine appreciation and respect for the destination’s local culture. Be sensitive to the communities’ traditions and be mindful when visiting heritage sites, make sure to follow any dress codes or rules. Always seek permission if you are to take pictures of people and consider the local’s perception of your activities as a visitor.
10. Reduce your Waste & Dispose of it Sensibly
Remember to pack items that help reduce waste, like reusable masks. Still, you might not have your reusable items handy when at restaurants, or shopping, so ask where possible for water bottles and straws made from glass or stainless steel and try to get cloth shopping bags. The rule of thumbs is: Avoid single-use items as much as possible! It is not only better for the environment, but you will be helping to sensitise people around you. We inevitably produce waste, so when you do, make sure you dispose of it properly and look for the appropriate recycling bins.
11. Offset Your Emissions
We all inevitably have a carbon impact when we travel. Although there is increased awareness on the impact of Travel & Tourism activities on emissions, we believe the answer is not to stop travelling but to aim to travel smarter and to make our impact matter! If you can, use direct flights over those with stop-overs as the highest amount of emissions is during take-off and landing. You can use a carbon calculator to offset many aspects of your trip, and by doing so, you can contribute to projects that help build and restore environmental and social resilience. Still, the first step is to try reducing your emissions, then measure them through the carbon calculator and finally offset them.
12. Think about Your Energy Consumption
Beyond emissions, it is important to also think about your own energy consumption. Once in your hotel or homestay, remember to switch off the lights and your air-conditioning when you leave your room, to hang your towel to dry and reuse, to turn off the water when you brush your teeth and to use a moderate temperature when showering. All of these might seem to be minor details, but if we all do them, it will surely help preserve energy in the destination.
13. Demand Sustainability
It is important to share with businesses in the sector that you expect sustainable practices. Fill in feedback forms when you have the chance or speak to the managers when you can. This will help fuel best practices!
14. Share Your Experiences & Give Kudos
Share your responsible travel experiences with your network including friends, family, colleagues, and on social media! It will emphasize the importance of sustainable practices and help raise awareness to travel even more sustainably. You should also showcase your incredible experience by writing great reviews to help promote wonderful travel & tourism businesses.
Written by Tiffany Misrahi, VP Policy and Kmar Makni, Sustainability Manager, World Travel & Tourism Council