How many times have you read the words ‘responsible travel’ or ‘sustainable tourism’, or ‘eco-hotels’ and ‘green travel’? It’s not surprising these terms seem to blur into one; it’s a complicated business.
At Jacada, luxury travel and sustainability go hand in hand. We’re constantly taking steps to become more sustainable and advocate for responsible travel. But we’re also on a mission to prove to our travellers that ‘responsible travel’ is something that we can all practice on our everyday adventures. From authenticity to zero waste, we’ve put together this handy A-Z of Responsible Travel, so we can all make a bit more of a positive impact the next time we travel abroad.
Travelling gives us the perfect opportunity to learn about new cultures and interact with new communities. If we put more thought into our trip than into the community benefit of it though, there’s a very real risk these community-based experiences could be more exploitative than authentic. Whether it’s the people you meet, the places you stay or the food that you eat, Responsible Travel celebrates all things authentic and encourages travellers to really get under the skin of a place for themselves, and with respect.
It goes without saying that wildlife encounters are some of the most memorable travel experiences one can have. At Jacada, we’re committed to protecting the world’s biodiversity and are strong believers in the principle that wild animals should be viewed in their natural habitat, living in the wild. We ensure that our trips avoid any activities that exploit domestic or working animals and don’t allow any activities that allow our travellers to pet or walk with wild animals.
C: Conservation, Community, Culture, Commerce
OK, we’ve cheated a bit here and chosen four words instead of just one, but according to The Long Run’s 4C’s approach, Responsible Travel is really about ensuring that conservation, community, culture and commerce all work in harmony with one another. Learn more about the 4C’s contribution to responsible tourism here.
By encouraging people to travel to off the beaten path destinations, Responsible Travel helps many local economies the world over to thrive off the tourism industry. As a result, countries like Sri Lanka have managed to build $3 billion tourism industries and the very act of travelling itself has helped this island nation to bounce back from recent attacks. Tourism isn’t international aid in the traditional sense, but it’s definitely one of the contributing factors to developing world economies.
Responsible Tourism – and eco-tourism in particular – is tourism dedicated to helping threatened natural environments. As part of the Wilderness Safaris family, all of our trips help to support conservation. We also make sure to partner with eco-friendly lodges such as Pacuare in Costa Rica to support conservation work wherever our travellers are.
With the rise of climate change activism, there’s an increasing guilt around taking flights, also known as ‘flygskam’ or flight shame. By its very nature though, Responsible Travel doesn’t encourage people to stop travelling. Instead, Responsible Travel suggests considering alternative ‘Slow Travel’ methods of transport, or using a couple of flights a year to visit those places that rely on tourism. If we were all to stop flying tomorrow, thousands of people worldwide would be left without a source of income, so rather than discouraging flying we encourage our clients to consider the benefits of other methods as well. For example, travelling by rail can often be a fantastic way to see a country.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory – see E: Eco-friendly for more!
Whilst we all love a luxury hotel, there’s nothing quite like staying with the locals. From staying in local lodges amongst Nepal’s Annapurna circuit to trekking through Vietnam’s Sapa, what makes a lot of journeys so memorable is the people you meet whilst you’re on them.
Responsible Tourism is about making sure every traveller is included. From those with disabilities to LGBTQ+ travellers, no traveller is left behind.
J: Journey deeper
Part of being a responsible traveller is asking questions and learning about the places you are visiting. Taking the time to truly understand your destination, its culture and history and the issues that it faces will not only enrich your experience, it will allow you to make responsible choices as you travel.
K: Kindness of strangers
We’ve said more than enough times that travel is all about the people you meet along the journey. From the local restaurateur to the local guides with you every step of the way, responsible travel – and travel in general – is a true lesson in the power of the kindness of strangers.
Part of being responsible when you travel is making sure you’re not perpetuating any negative cycles or stereotypes. To keep the money earned from tourism in the local economy, eat in locally owned restaurants, and stay in locally owned lodges, hotels, and B&Bs. Buy locally made handicrafts and products that double as practical, everyday items, so you’ll be able to remember your vacation for years to come!
By offering local, experiential and authentic adventures, travelling responsibly means you’ll always go home having had a meaningful experience.
There are few things that help us to get out of the hustle and bustle of everyday life as much as reconnecting with nature. Responsible Tourism helps to ensure that the world still has some very special, untouched places left – where travellers can go and truly get off the beaten track.
We’ve seen places like Venice and Barcelonasuffer first-hand due to an overwhelming footfall, so whilst Responsible Tourism isn’t about stopping people travelling to certain places, it is about offering alternatives to overcrowded destinations.
P: Putting people first
Ultimately, it’s people that are at the heart of everything Responsible Tourism is trying to do. From employing local people to preserving local cultures, the Responsible Tourism movement wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of people across the globe.
Q: Quit single use plastics
Globally, almost 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually—half of which is single-use—and more than 8 million tons of that plastic are dumped into the ocean, according to the Plastic Oceans Foundation. By quitting single use plastics and declining products like plastic straws, coffee cups, plastic bags and plastic cutlery, every traveller can do their bit in helping to keep travelling responsible.
A combination of all the A-Zs on this list make sure that Responsible Travel is just that, responsible!
Responsible Travel is about creating destinations, communities and experiences that are sustainable for the long-term.
The path towards Responsible Tourism is not a straight one – there is likely to be many ups and downs, and it’s easy to make mistakes along the way. What really matters though, is that companies trying to become more responsible are honest and transparent about how they are getting there. At Jacada, we’re not quite there yet – but we’re continuously taking steps to try and make more of a positive impact through everything that we do.
The opposite of overtourism, the term ‘under-tourism’ describes exactly the opposite; those places that are in need of more tourists. This not only includes cities and attractions appealing to travellers who are fed up with crowds and tourist hotspots, but also places which are suffering from natural or man-made disasters. If you want to be a responsible traveller, show some love to one of these destinations on your next vacation.
Voluntourism – or the act of travelling abroad to participate in some kind of voluntary work – is a tricky topic. In many cases it can do more harm than good, but there are still ways to travel responsibly and contribute. Through doing thorough research and looking for expert advice, you can find the best way to give back to the destination you’re visiting.
The experiences and memories which Responsible Travel helps to create are nothing short of wondrous, and it’s no surprise that wandering off the beaten track helps put everyone who does into a state of awe and wonder.
We’ll be honest, X is quite a difficult one to find a term for – and in the name of being transparent, we don’t want to make it look like we’re clutching at (biodegradable) straws!
Y: Youth empowerment
Responsible Travel is a movement supported by people of all ages, but it’s also the perfect vehicle for empowering the youngest in our society. From global youth councils to young people in local communities who are able to earn an income through tourism, youth empowerment is one of the many benefits Responsible Tourism has.
Z: Zero waste
Much like putting the lid on single-use plastics, trying to be zero-waste whilst you travel is a great way of protecting the planet and natural environment for generations to come.