Better places for people to live in…
…better places for people to visit
The tourism industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and is what we can call a two-edged sword. On one side it can benefit local communities by creating jobs and steady incomes for people where they live. Travelling can also teach us about culture and make us more tolerant to others. On the other hand, areas can be over-crowded in such an extent that local people feel squeezed out of their home town. And who is not feeling at least a bit guilty every time they board an airplane?
According to a survey conducted by AIG Travel 52% of the respondents believe responsible tourism is important. I have been interested in this topic for more than 10 years now, and am happy to see the increasing interest among people and businesses worldwide during the years. Just not as fast as I would have wished. Why?
The same survey found that 1 in 3 respondents found travelling responsible hard because they did not know how to start, and 4 in 5 did not know what responsible tourism encompasses.
How to be a responsible traveller
Well, lets have a look at some easy steps that all of us can make when travelling. Even though the tourism industry itself should do its share, we can all do something to make the places we visit better for people to live in. And, believe it or not, that will improve your holiday!
- LONGER HOLIDAYS
Instead of multiple shorter trips and weekend getaways throughout the year, plan an adventure! Go away for at least two weeks and learn to know the destination well. Are you travelling for work? Extend the work trip instead of going away on a private trip a month later. You may even save the flight costs.
- EAT, SHOP & STAY LOCALLY
Have lunch and dinner different places around your destination, instead of booking all-inclusive. Have a buffet ever given you any great experiences? It may feel like a hassle if you are travelling with kids, but try to remember you own childhood holidays. I, at least, loved going out to eat, even though I usually ended up with spaghetti with butter or pizza margherita.
Do you really need that magnet and t-shirt that is made in China, and looks exactly the same in Crete as in Alanya just with other names? Buy your souvenirs at local markets and small boutiques. Find something that lasts, and that you want to use at home.
Stay at smaller, locally owned hotels instead of the big chain hotels. This will keep more of the money you spend in the destination, instead of sending it off to a big company abroad. If you feel like putting little extra effort, try to find out which hotel focus on local economic development, social development and/or environment in it’s destination. It is not very hard, most places today have good web pages.
- USE A LOCAL GUIDE
Instead of using guides provided by the travel company, find a local agency that offer tours. These guides will often give you valuable local knowledge as well as history and culture. If you want to go on a group tour, pick a tour where they use local guides at the various places you visit.
- SAVE WATER
Many of us are spoiled with a steady waterflow. At home it doesn’t occur to me to turn the water off when shampooing or brushing my teeth. But water levels in western Norway cannot be compared to dryer climates further south on the planet. Hang your towels up after use, you do not need to get them changed every day. Turn the shower in-between shampooing and rinsing, and the same with the tap when brushing your teeth.
- ASK FIRST
Talk to people and respect that you are a visitor. If you want to take someone’s portrait, ask them first. Do you like being photographed by random people on the street? Do you want to go somewhere, but you are unsure whether it is private property or not? Ask first. You never know what will happen when you talk to someone, but risk about someone being angry is a lot smaller than getting a smile and a good story – even if you do not speak the same language.
- RESPECT OTHER CULTURES
Read and learn about the destination you are travelling to, this makes it easier to accept and respect the differences that may appear. You do not have to travel far to find people behaving different from what you are used to. Germans and Brits probably find Norwegians quite rude; if we bump into you it is more likely that we say “oh, shit” than “oh, sorry”… To Norwegians out there; do not say that when abroad”.
Dressing is an important part of this, if the locals cover up – the least you can do is cover your shoulders and knees.
- RESPECT SIGNS AND FENCES
Just because you are on holiday it does not mean that you can do whatever you like. Norwegians may want to walk wherever they feel like it because we have the law on “freedom to roam”, but that is not the case everywhere. While tourists coming to Norway may think they can walk and camp everywhere because of this law. Do not walk on farmed land, into peoples farms, garden etc.
- KEEP TO PATHS
If you are in an area with lots of tourists, keep to the path where there is one. Lots of people in one place causes erosion. If there is a pond the path, try to jump over or get wet instead of walking on the side of it.
- DO NOT GIVE ANYTHING TO KIDS
If you want to give something to kids at your destination, find a school or and organisation to go through. Kids begging for things, be it sweets or pens, are keeping them away from school. Or even worse, the kids are used for big business.
- TALK TO PEOPLE!
This is when you get the great stories to tell everyone at home. You did not travel all that way just to talk to your friend, partner or family, did you? One of the things I love about travelling solo is that you just must talk to people now and then. Asking for directions or if someone knows a good place to eat may be all you need to start a conversation.