“Take nothing but photos. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.” By thinking about how you travel, and perhaps becoming an eco-tourist, you’ll not only enjoy your trip more responsibly, you’ll leave the destination in better shape for other travellers and most importantly, its inhabitants. Skyscanner Australia looks at some of the ways you can travel in a more responsible way – and still have a wonderful holiday.
Many countries are famous for their animals – China its pandas, Thailand its elephants, Kenya its lions – and many tourists are happy to pay a pretty penny to see these up close. However, not all animal exhibits treat their star attractions with the respect and kindness they deserve. A significant proportion of animal shows – from killer whales performing tricks to monkeys playing basketball or elephants painting – have some level of abuse involved in their training or upkeep. Be sure to check reviews before you book anything and, where possible, remember the maxim of watching but not touching.
As a volunteer there’s a lot you can do, but some of it isn’t always as impactful as you imagined. Eco-volunteers can do a lot to tidy up, protect or re-forest an area, but there are some other programs that are less beneficial. For example, if you decide to teach at an orphanage for a year then you’ll likely do wonders for their education, but if you only go for a week you’ll maybe teach the kids how to count to ten, just like they learnt to do the week before.
Be savvy when you book tours
Eco-tourism can be as much a buzzword as it is anything effective, so if you see any tour advertised in such a way ask what they actually mean by that. Small groups tend to have less of an impact than larger ones, and responsible operators will give back to the communities they visit.
Treat a hotel like your home
Many people think of eco-tourism as a big thing, but often little touches can make a huge impact. Whether your accommodation is simply where you sleep at night or if it’s your haven for relaxation, it can play a big part on your carbon footprint. From booking a hotel that is big on recycling and using sustainable materials, to being sensible with your demand for clean towels and how much you use the air con, you can have a big impact with how you travel.
Be aware of scams
As well as looking after others, you need to take care of yourself. No matter where you go in the world, mixed in with the friendly locals will be those who want to take advantage of you and your wallet. Whether it’s a needy mother looking for milk for her child, an attractive stranger who wants to practise English with you in a locale of their choice or the person who wants to teach you a game to win big, there’s often an ulterior motive. The Australian Government has listed a number of common scams to be aware of.
Whether you’re looking for souvenirs, beer or food, buying local helps in many ways. It cuts down on carbon footprint as the distance between the origin and destination is minimised. It also gives locals valuable employment, helps keep tax money in the country to improve infrastructure and gives you a much more authentic holiday. Shopping at local markets is a great way to do this. For short-term travellers, try to avoid the big, international brand names you recognise and choose the local equivalent that’ll help the area.