Tourism is growing at an ever-faster pace, but with these increased opportunities for travel come added pressures on local environments, communities and cultural heritage.
In order to protect these precious environments and ensure the same wonders are there to see for generations to come, it is important to travel in a sustainable and responsible way. Sustainable travel is all about minimising any harm caused to natural and cultural environments so that tourism is able to continue there in the future. This means considering many aspects – from being environmentally friendly to being sensitive to the local culture.
Here are some of the ways you can make sure your trip has a positive impact on the places you visit.
Eat like a local
One of the most exciting things about travelling is getting to try the local dishes. World cuisines are becoming more readily available at home – which is great – but there is no better way to experience a dish than in its birthplace. Trying the local specialty is the most sustainable way to eat on your trip. The ingredients are usually sourced locally which means less transportation is involved and you’ll be supporting the local industries who produce the food.
Learning more about the local delicacies can also be a great way to get to know the culture a little better. At our camp in Kenya, the amazing local women who help run the camp teach our volunteers how to make traditional Swahili dishes, giving them the chance to discover not just the taste of the food but also the history and customs behind its preparation.
Be responsible about your interaction with wildlife
For many travellers, the opportunity to encounter some spectacular wildlife is a highlight of their trip. However, the popular demand to get close to these animals has led to extremely poor treatment of them by some tourism companies. Avoid places that use animals in shows or for entertainment purposes or those that force animals to behave or interact in ways that wouldn’t occur naturally in the wild. Instead, favour organisations that have a conservational focus such as wildlife sanctuaries or rescue centres.
Even better, to have a positive effect on the wildlife you care about, get involved with conservation projects. Some of the projects we work on as part of our volunteering programmes at Camps International include re-forestation projects in Borneo to protect the homes of a diverse range of rainforest species and implementing eco-friendly elephant deterrent fences around communities in Kenya to prevent human-animal conflict.
Learn the history and local customs
A huge part of responsible tourism is showing respect for the local culture. It will likely be completely different to the one you are used to and some of the behaviours that you would consider to be normal at home may be out of place or even offensive in another country.
Remember to be humble, read up on a place to better understand its history and most importantly let the locals teach you – they are the ones who know their country better than any guidebook. Your travel experience will be so much more rewarding if you gain a true appreciation of the culture.
Get away from the crowds
Top tourist sights are famous for a reason, but there is always so much more to a country than those oft-visited attractions. Try to seek out other less well-known areas that might be worth a visit. Towns and communities away from the tourist trail will give you a true impression of what life is really like in the country. It also means that you won’t be adding to the pressure of over-tourism in popular areas. Instead you will be contributing to the local economy where the money earned from tourism can make a big difference in the community.
Our camps are located within the heart of local communities and we employ local people to build and run them, which means you’ll really feel a part of the community. Our in-country staff will also be able to show you places no one else gets to see, and if there’s something in particular you really want to tick off your bucket list, they can help make that happen.
Support responsible travel companies
Do your research and make sure the companies you travel with have an ethos for sustainable travel and contribute in a positive way to the environments and communities they work within. Do they have environmentally-friendly policies? Do they employ local people?
If you are volunteering abroad, make sure you take a look at the company’s project reports to see that they are measuring and completing the work they undertake. At Camps International, every single project we start we finish, without compromise.
By taking part in one of Camps International’s independent travel programmes, you can be sure that you are travelling in a sustainable and ethical way and that you will have a positive impact on the places you visit. To find out more about some of the incredible volunteer trips we offer, click here and request one of our free brochures to receive £25 off your trip.