Responsible travel is the need of the hour because just like every coin has two sides, mass tourism has its virtues and shortcomings.
The advancements in the space of travel and hospitality have made the world a global village. Online bookings, loyalty discounts, ease of travel and what-not have sent the number of people travelling to an all-time high. There are countries like Macau, Maldives that are completely reliant on tourism. In our own country, official figures state that around 9.3% of India’s population is employed in some form in the tourism sector. The positive impacts of tourism can’t be denied, but…
There is another side of it too, that many of you must have personally experienced. Mass tourism has exploited so many places that seemed so enchanting when we had visited them five years ago. High chance that trails of plastic wrappers and bottles have saturated the place that was once your favorite picnic spot. Take for instance Goa, you might have fallen in love with the once tranquil beaches, clean surroundings, and genuine people once upon a time and now you might be re-considering your decision to visit Goa.
Given that there is a growing need for responsible travelers, here are some pointers for a start…
Respect the locals and their culture:
To embrace the cultural differences and share a smile with all the locals you meet – this is the most simplest things you can do as a responsible traveler.
Shop and eat local:
Malls and big food chains are a complete no-no. Try shopping at the local markets and purchasing handicrafts or specialities unique to that region. This way you encourage the local talent and contribute to the local economy.
The recent water crisis at Shimla was an eye opener to so many travelers. At Nativefolks we encourage guests to avoid wastage of water especially in the washrooms. It is important to be more aware and sensitive to the environment around you, both while traveling and not.
Whether it is plastic bags, plastic wrappers of ready-made food or plastic water bottles, some people consider traveling as a ticket to littering. Think about it – would you like your walk on the beach or hike up the hill to be strewn with rubbish? Sometimes the use of plastic is unavoidable, but most of the times we can be more responsible and reduce our use of plastic, dont you think so? And if you are a parent travelling with your kids you can lead by example by not littering.
Dress to suit local sensibilities:
Traveling responsibly also means researching about the area you will be visiting in advance and dress accordingly especially while visiting places of religious worship.
Stay in homestays:
This is one of the best ways to give back to locals in stead of an international hospitality chain.
Visit the links for homestay options in Goa, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Sikkim
This point may come as a surprise to many of you who are moved by the sad conditions of the alms seekers. But when you give money to beggars you can have a negative impact on the ecosystem there. Especially the local vendors, who would then have to tolerate hoards of more beggars.
In fact in many places is it believed begging is run like a cartel and many children are physically hurt to make them more pitiful candidates. Instead a better option is, when someone comes begging, you can interact with them, talk to them or offer them some food and water.
If you are a keen enough then you will surely find the story teller who will entertain you with the local folklore, it could be the ancient looking village headman or the chubby kid who stays next door.
Ask permission before clicking pictures of the locals:
Try to use public transport whenever possible:
The rickety bus that moves at a snail’s pace and the auto rickshaws will allow you to see your destination in a different light and maybe leave you with fond travel stories. Plus it is easy on the pocket and environment friendly.
Participate in local festivals:
Learn a bit for the local language, the local culture and enlighten yourself with some basic knowledge about the country’s socio-economic condition before landing.
Participate in a local volunteering program:
If you are planning a long term visit to a particular location, you could explore volunteering options in the region. Voluntourism is a form of responsible travel. When you are choosing between the various projects look at the impact you will leave behind. It is usually recommended not to participate in children related projects as short term visits only disrupt their regular schedule.
Most importantly learn the art of ‘Slow travelling’ to make each of your travels more meaningful. This is something we at Nativefolks, try with each of our travel itineraries. As you wake up each day, let the place dazzle you with what it has to offer instead of an itinerary from the internet. Try to connect with the locals you meet during your journey, relish the delicious and home-cooked meals and choose experiences over things to do. Select quality over quantity.
So, let’s start traveling responsibly, shall we?