This world, has been, since the beginning of time, and will ever remain an all enduring force with two faces. One that throws expressions of a rapturous kind: bejewelled with the wrinkles of many a sunsets and sunrises, of sweeping panoramas and gasps of soul-stirring breezes, of diverse ethnicities and ecosystems, and of deep-rooted religions, cultures and customs. And the other, of an eternal wrath and fury, some, our doing: riots, differences, hatred; and others, nature’s doing: flash floods, famines, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and earth-shattering quakes, all reducing man-made marvels to where they began – the ground. Being a balancing force that it is, the world will find a way to get even with the atrocities committed against it, rest assured.
And being a progressive race that we are, have never been in control, and it would be a sin of the highest order to live in that false assumption that we think we can control, or worse, rule it. We—as tourists, travellers, hosts to the tourists and travellers, or society as whole—at our best, can revere, and try to bring about a collective harmony by taking responsibility for our actions while consciously focusing on each individual aspect that contributes to, maintaining and enhancing, not deteriorating, our world’s purest form, the natural order, if you may. But what is the way forward, and what is, Responsible Tourism, exactly?
What is Responsible Tourism?
Responsible Tourism harbours a belief, rather, a behaviour, that every tourist, local, business, or any other stakeholder should adapt to, each adhering to its responsibilities in whichever way possible, to go beyond mere gratification or financial rewards. As is described by Centres for Responsible Tourism around the world, it should aim to:
- Minimise negative economic, environmental, and social impacts
- Generate greater economic benefits for local people and enhance the well-being of host communities, improve working conditions and access to the industry
- Involve local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances
- Make positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world’s diversity
- Provide more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local culture, its social and environmental issues
- Provide access for people with disabilities
- Be culturally sensitive; engender respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
The Centre for Responsible Tourism, Goa, sums it up beautifully in “Tourism is fire minus the smoke.” But how do we reduce this smoke to a bare minimum?
Tips for Being a Responsible Traveller
Here are some tips that you can stick to and play your part in being a responsible traveller towards the larger picture. Remember, it is all about minimising the negative impact of your travel and maximising the benefits for the host country: ecologically and economically.
- It is most advisable that you educate yourself beforehand about the culture, religion, geography, ecosystem, and customs of the destination you plan to visit and save yourself from any potential hassles as to what to wear, what to say, what to eat etc. There are many a guidebooks and online travelogues that will help you with it.
- Try and learn a few words of the local language of the destination you are about to visit. This will not only help you travel safe locally, but also project to the locals about your willingness to take interest in their cultures and customs.
- Before making hotel reservations in the destination you are about to visit, enquire with the owner or the manager about what measures the management and the staff is taking to promote responsible tourism from their end, or, how are they being responsible towards the environment, economy, and the culture of the place.
- Try and keep your air travel time to bare minimum. This will reduce the carbon emissions from your end of travel. Make use of as much local transport: trains, buses, cabs etc. as possible while travelling within the state or country.
- Try and minimise the amount of plastic bags that you might need for waste disposal. If possible, try and pack paper bags if travelling to a remote destination. If on a trek, tie the disposal bag to the bottom of your backpack.
- Please don’t litter the place. Whether it’s a plastic bag or a paper one, dispose it off only when you see a proper dustbin. Again, please don’t litter the pristine surroundings when on a high altitude or remote trek.
- Pledge for a cleanup drive on every trip of yours. Wherever you see litter on the way, pick it up and put in your disposal bag to be disposed off later. Even if it seems too much to handle single-handedly, don’t give up; it all counts. Maybe, seeing you, others will join you as well.
- There also are local N.G.O.’s and concerned people and travellers with whom you can un-litter at least a little portion of the town or village. Check with locals or your guide or tour operator for more information.
- Water, in some countries, is worth more than precious stones. Use it wisely. If possible, take quick showers and try and go for the refill rather than purchasing a new bottle every time. This, eventually, will help bring down the number of scrapped plastic bottles up for waste or recycle.
- When shopping for food, try and buy local produce rather than imported goods. And when shopping for souvenirs, buy them at the local markets.
- Do not disturb the local flora and fauna of the place.
It is not an overnight transformation. It will take time, a few trips maybe, but accountability towards a healthy tourism and healthy world is ours, and it is, the way forward. Happy travelling!