Photo: Ron and Zoe

Travel and tourism continue to mature in ways that benefit locals and visitors.

Responsible travel is our generation’s moral, multiple-choice quiz. Planeta.com views ‘responsible travel’ as a label for for visitors and locals – aka players – as a way of treating others the way they wish to be treated. While tourism campaigns have long touted ‘destinations’ — in fact we are simply entering a place that is someone else’s home. In the interest of the ‘neighborhood,’ what can travel and tourism do to empower mutually beneficial benefits?

Most travelers simply want to have a good trip that causes no harm, and most locals want to have positive interactions with visitors who are themselves respectful.

Good news – there are many options for travelers wishing their journeys to be as eco-friendly, people-friendly, and place-friendly as possible. A growing number of travelers want their journeys to be less invasive and more beneficial to the local community. They want to better understand the culture of the places they visit.

For visitors, how to …
Once you arrive, here are a few things visitors can do:

Pick up the trash – Actions speak louder than words. If you are concerned about the environment, show that you care by never throwing anything of yours on the ground. As the adage goes, ‘pack it in, pack it out.’ Bonus points if you picking up other trash without being ostentatious.

Learn the language – Learn and use a few words starting with ‘hello’ and ‘thank you.’ Bonus points for Indigenous languages.

Be respectful of peoples’ privacy – Be respectful of restrictions – Some communities may be closed to visitors. Natural attractions might be off limits for cultural or environmental reasons. When in doubt of whether or not to proceed, ask first.

Be respectful of Indigenous Peoples – Traditional land owners should be acknowledged. Aboriginal and Indigenous people working in tourism take their role of welcoming visitors very seriously. Recognize their connection to the land and learn to see the world differently.

Buy local products – If you are looking for a gift or a souvenir, patronize the arts and demonstrate your support for local culture. Buying from a local artisan can cut out 40 steps in the traditional export chain. What not to buy? Items made from endangered animals or pirated archaeological treasures.

Contribute to a local charity – Ask around and find out which social or environmental efforts can use your time or a financial contribution. Be generous!

Support urban ecotourism – Before heading to the ‘pristine’ wilderness, visit the city parks. There are few remote ecolodges that are not visited in transit via a major metropolis.

Check in on the social web – Those with smartphones can assist local efforts by checking in, liking and sharing the restaurants, hotels and services that are doing a good job.

Take books and leave books (that people want) – Global understanding could vastly be improved if we took (and left) better books on our trips! If you have academic leanings, find out if the local libraries can use more technical materials and take them something they can use. Once you have decided where you are traveling, email locals and ask if you can bring something. It’s a variation of the Platinum Rule (Do unto others as they would like to have you do unto them).

Read an E-Book – Hungry for more info? There’s a PDF for that. Download the Responsible Travel Handbook (PDF) published by Transitions Abroad.

Also, consider not traveling. Instead of transitions abroad, consider what transitions at home might signify.

Staycation – Use the tools above to document local interests to a visiting public. Participate online in hybrid events in subjects that interest you.

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