If this past year has taught us anything, it’s been not to take travel for granted. Travel is not our right … it’s our privilege.
Hibiscus International’s core values for the past 35 years have been based on sustainable travel initiatives, designing culturally sensitive tours and educating travellers to tread lightly and with forethought.
Try as much as possible to ensure your money stays in the country you’re visiting and support locally owned accommodation such as agritourismo properties where you stay on a working farm/ranch. Statistics from the UN Environmental Program state that an astounding 95% of revenue generated by tourists from developed countries goes offshore with only 5% left to benefit the local destination and community.
Here are our top 10 suggestions on the things you can do as a responsible traveller to minimize the destruction caused by mass tourism.
- Visit and follow the tips provided by the property/hotel to recycle, reduce and reuse. You will see notices around your room with suggestions. More hotels are turning away from single use plastics and we encourage you to do the same. Look for tourism suppliers who have awards and affiliations with environmental protection organizations.
- Look for environmentally responsible activities & tours, especially those offering insight into the communities or natural areas you visit. There is a lot of controversy around petting and riding captive animals. I’ve harboured guilt from riding and petting captive animals over my many years of travel. Some communities survive because of these practices so it’s man vs nature. I’ve turned to adopting and financially supporting sanctuaries and non-invasive practices. Whatever you decide, ask questions and find out their practices.
- Visit local industries and farms to learn about production issues. Ever been to a banana plantation, or seen how cheese is produced, or learned how to make a chocolate bar? Children as well as adults really enjoy and learn from these unique experiences.
- Enjoy local cuisine while travelling – be it one of the many food trucks popping up, a road side stand, or local restaurant. Yes, there are safe practices to observe, but the taste is well worth it. Prices are generally much less and the food is fresh. Visit the local market and try new fruits or go to a local bakery for some yummy pastries. One of my favourites is to visit a local winery and attend cooking classes. Guaranteed to start conversations and make new friends.
- Hire local guides who provide interpretive lectures by natural historians or botanists/biologists about the local environment. Guaranteed to be a memorable experience. Many countries have National Trusts with free walking tours on designated days. Check out the local newspaper.
- Support local arts, culture and projects and buy locally made handicrafts & souvenirs right from the source if possible. The artisan will thank you. One such potter showed me how to use his pottery wheel. It was fun to get my hands dirty and appreciate the skill and time it takes to produce a single work of art.
- Volunteer at community or local environmental programs such as beach clean ups, walk a dog from the Humane Society, attend a church service, visit a school and engage in conversation with the children … no matter what language you speak. A smile is universal. There are so many ways to help and teachers enjoy the added stimulation. Be sure to set up an appointment so they know you are coming. Take school suppliers with you instead of giving candy.
- Attend a local festival to learn some of the customs and practices of the region. Music, colour, food … and a whole lot of fun.
- Opt for small group tours which mitigate the effect of tourism on the environment and culture. If you think just by visiting a country you’re doing good … think again.
And last but not least …
10) Make a commitment next time you travel to try at least one of these suggestions and you will be well on your way to being a more responsible traveller.