Are you going away this summer? And if so, are you a responsibile tourist? This is something I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately. As someone who travels a lot for work, and spends an awful lot of time on planes and ships, I’m aware that I have an environmental responsibility. But there’s also the ethical responsibility of travel to consider as well.
It’s important to think about the consequences of everything you’re doing while you’re away, and how it may impact on the lives of the local people in the place you’re visiting. For example, if you’re visiting a country it’s important to buy locally produced goods rather than imported tat. When we were in St Petersburg, for example, our guide avoided the huge state-owned gallery gift shops and instead took us to small shops on back streets, where everything was handmade and the money went directly into the hands of the local people running them. It was the same in Vietnam, where we were taken to a lacquer factory. In Labadee, we were taken on our excursion to a gorgeous little cove by local people, and we bought handmade souvenirs and rum punch from them. In Jamaica, we went horse-riding at a school run by a group of local people.
Of course another goal of responsible tourism is to minimise negative environmental impact. When I’m on a ship or staying in a hotel, I try really hard not to use more towels than I need, and I never leave the tap running or have more lights on than I can use to see.
I’m also a big fan of schemes will make it easy for you to give your spare foreign change to a worthwhile charity, for example the Unicef global parent program, because let’s face it it’s only going to sit around in drawers (or jars) at home. Anything you can do while you’re travelling to help a country reach its goal of sustainable development is a good thing, in my opinion. We’re so lucky to be able to travel the world – and being a responsible tourist is the least we can do to say thank you.