By Sally Redecker
Going on a trip this summer? Whether you are going camping, staying in an airbnb, or are just out for the day, you should check out our five tips on responsible tourism below.
By now, most of us have heard of responsible, or conscious, tourism. Basically it is about reducing one’s negative impact on the local economy, environment and community while travelling. So instead of getting a BigMac you visit the local family-run restaurant. Instead of going off the beaten path you follow local signage and rules. You get the idea.
There are lots of great tips on how to be a responsible tourist out there, especially about sustainability when traveling, but we will focus on the community aspect.
Before You Take Off
You know the destination(s) of your trip? Great! Do you know the local guidelines, how to get there and what the local infrastructure looks like? Time to do some research!
No matter how far away your destination is, a two hour drive or eleven hour flight, it will be different from what you are used to. That’s kind of why we travel, eh?
1. Avoid unpleasant surprises – what you should check out:
- Local tourism websites and info centres area a great way to gather information about the destination
- FAQ’s: a great summary of what is helpful to know before your arrival
- Important information: be aware of safety and health risks, road closures and weather conditions, possible lack of public transit and ATM’s, opening hours of businesses and the culture
- Connect: ask your host about local conditions and what would be important for you to know
During Your Stay
It is important to remember that you are a guest at all times. You have the privilege to visit a beautiful destination, enjoy it the way it was intended to. Treat the place the same way as your friend’s home: respect their rules and wishes; if they ask you to take off your shoes, do it! If they ask you to not leave chips crumbs all over the couch, do it! In short: leave no trace, respect the rules. It is usually fairly easy to do so but here are some tips:
2. Respect the local rules
This is mostly common sense, but some people could use a reminder: respect all the rules! Whether it’s a sign telling you not to access private property or to not feed wild animals/pets, don’t overstep (literally). You wouldn’t want someone disrespecting rules you put up to protect your property, animals and family. And no, it is not worth it just so you can get a better photo than the next person.
3. Respect the local culture
In Germany there is a saying: “andere Laender, andere Sitten”, which translates to “other countries, other manners”. Make sure to inform yourself about the local culture and courtesies. Some places might ask you to cover up your shoulders and knees when entering a building, others might see tipping the waiter as an offence. And if you have a problem with certain rules, it might be better to find a new destination rather than telling a community to change their culture. As long as something isn’t degrading or against human rights, it’s easy to follow and a sign of respect.
4. Respect the local lifestyle
You might not find a life as convenient and comfortable as yours is at home when travelling. Things we take for granted like a fast internet connection, public transit and more than 10 restaurants with different food offers aren’t common in smaller communities. So don’t complain to your host or a business owner or a waiter about situations they can’t change. It is your responsibility to make sure you have everything you need and want, not someone else’s.
Before You Leave
Leaving on a good note is important on both sides. Of course your destination wants you to feel as welcome and cared for as possible so that you will have a positive experience and might even come back, but you want to be remembered in a good way as well.
5. Leave a positive trace
Just like you help your friends clean up after a get together at their place, you clean up when leaving your campsite or accommodation. It is about leaving a place the same way you found it, especially when in nature. Leaving no trace at all. But even better is leaving a positive trace. Like a tip, if appropriate, and a review and recommendations for future travellers to read. Not only about the place you stayed at but other local businesses and places as well.
Wherever you are travelling to this summer, hopefully these tips helped you gain a new perspective and to be more conscious about your behaviour when visiting other communities. Just keep in mind that you are a guest in someone else’s space and to treat it the way you would want someone else to treat yours.