What is responsible tourism?
Responsible tourism is concerned with minimising the negative impact of the tourism upon the environment and the local community. It is a broad term, but the general idea is to plan the holidays in such the way that they are safe for the tourists themselves, friendly for flora and fauna and beneficial for the host society. Responsible tourism involves following the local law, minimising the carbon footprint of the journey and not destroying the achievements of culture and nature. Being a responsible traveller is much simpler that you might expect. We have written this short guide for the beginners to increase awareness of what damage irresponsible actions may have on the environment. The aim of this guide is also to encourage tourists to follow simple rules to maximise the safety and satisfaction of their experience with the foreign culture. Are you a responsible traveller already? Perfect! Follow this article to find more information regarding this topic.
Step 1: Caring About the Animals
Tropical animals in Peru and Ecuador are always the objects of interest of tourists, and it is completely natural. Nevertheless, from the observations of our team, not only in South America but across the world, people tend to ignore three fundamental rules regarding the safety of them and animals. Those three rules are:
Do not feed.
Do not touch.
Do not disturb.
Following them contribute to being the responsible traveller. To discuss the first one, the tourists must realise that local government do not put the sign „don’t feed animals” because they want them to starve. The truth is that an average person does not possess the sufficient knowledge about the animals’ diet, therefore, by feeding many species, the tourists may cause harm to their health. Before you feed an animal, ask yourself the question „Am I 100% sure that this food is healthy for this particular species?” In most cases, the answer would be „no”.
To provide an example, many environmentalists and researchers agree that feeding ducks with bread is not beneficial for them, however, in many countries, it is a popular activity to do so. If you still don’t agree with this point, think about the future of animals which used to obtain the meals from humans and later, during the certain season (e.g. winter), the number of tourists in the region dramatically decreased. Animals which were receiving food without any effort will struggle to survive as they do not have any experience in hunting. The damage for them is visible and serious.
Although it is a bad habit, feeding animals is often covered by the good faith as some people believe that they help animals and do not realise the harm of their actions. However, there are even more irresponsible tourists who feed animals just to catch their attention to make a photo or to touch them. We observed such a behaviour, for instance, in Fuerteventura where tourists were feeding squirrels to make a picture with them. As proof, below we present a picture of a squirrel which was interested in our camera. As the responsible tourists, we have not touched or fed this animal.
You may encounter a lot of cute animals in South America. You might wonder: why is it better not to touch them? The reasons are following: firstly, the tourists should remember that majority of species are wild, after all. It means that you cannot be sure how the animal will react after you touch it. The animal may bite, scratch or even attack you. Secondly, you can contract a disease from some species. Finally, a domesticated and trusting animal which used to be wild will be more likely to interact with lots of different people and, unfortunately, not every human treats animal well.
„Do not disturb” is the last point from the first step. A responsible tourist should remember that he is only the guest of wild nature and the mature behaviour is advisable. As an example of the place in which animals are continuously disturbed, Gibraltar can be given. This is the only location in Europe where the population of wild monkeys can be found. From our experience, the majority of tourists distract animals, feed them and touch. On the other hand, those animals are used to humans to such an extent that they are not afraid of stealing food or jumping on the cars. Below we present the photo of the monkey with its child. We took this picture from the safe distance, so the animals were not disturbed. The zoom in the phone or camera should become a good friend of every photographer who cares about peace of the animals.
Responsible pet owners never abandon their pupils while travelling. If you cannot take your animals with you, ensure that you leave them with a mature person. It is good when a pet knows the people who will take care of him. If it is not possible, specific hotels for pets become more and more popular.
Step 2: Caring About Nature
In this step, the actions which should be taken to become the responsible traveller will be discussed in broader terms. The first rule is not to pluck the flowers and other plants. If in the area there are one thousand blossoms and each tourist who visits this place will take just one, shortly there will be no blossoms at all. As the responsible tourist, you are allowed to admire and to photograph the beauty of nature. However, do not destroy it, even if you think that impact of your action is small and insignificant. There are many other good souvenirs from special places, for instance, buying hand-made items crafted by the local community. They are durable too! To provide a real-life example of the violation of the indicated rule, our team thought of devastation of the Coral reef in Egypt. We heard about the tour operators who were taking the tourists for the cruise to show them the beauty of the reef. However, by doing so, the ship was scratching the surface of the reef in shallower places. It is better to avoid taking part in such tours if you are confident that the actions have a negative impact on the environment. Instead, the responsible tourist would just take a diving mask and explore the Coral reef from the safe distance. Also, support tours operators who are aware of the environmental issues.
Step 3: Respecting Local Culture
Every country has law more or less restrictive, and the duty of the responsible traveller is to obtain the knowledge about the rules which may affect him. For instance, it is forbidden to chew gum in Singapore which may surprise many Europeans. Even if the local law seems to be funny or without sense from the other culture point of view, after all, tourists are only the guests in countries they are visiting. Therefore, they are supposed to follow the regulations. Respecting local culture also involves appropriate behaviour in the places which require it, such as churches, museums, theaters and others.
Supporting small businesses by, for instance, buying souvenirs on the markets is a good idea. However, it is good advice to remember to buy only those things which are legal and environmentally friendly. Therefore, sellers of, e.g. pieces of the Coral reef should not be encouraged to furtherly destroy the nature and profit from this business. Among the useful gifts which you can buy in South America, there are many hand-made, beautiful and colourful souvenirs like scarves, sweaters, jewellery, bags, magnets and more. Responsible tourism contributes to creating new jobs positions and may boost the economy. According to the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism, it „is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence”. Also, it „provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues” (1). It is good to have in mind those wise words from the declaration when visiting the other country.
Step 4: Minimising The Impact Of Journey On The Environment
Sustainable tourism regarding minimising the negative impact of transportation is the huge challenge in XXI century. Tourists cause 4.4% of global CO2 emissions (2). This step of the guide is mainly considered with the question how to minimise the CO2 emission during the journey. Of course, everybody realises the fact that moving from one place to another by using, e.g. cars cannot be completely removed. Otherwise, there would be no tourism at all. However, there are few small things which allow a tourist to decrease the negative impact of his journey. Firstly, for not long distances it is better to take a bus rather than a plane. Many Europeans would be surprised how comfortable are buses in Peru and that they are cheap. Taking a bus instead of the plane in this country is a good solution for a pocket and the environment. The discussed point can be considered as the most important in this step due to a fact that more than 70% of the emissions of CO2 caused by tourism are from the transportation (2). However, other tips include taking a short shower instead of a bath, covering pots during cooking, remember about both, recycling and turning off the devices that you do not use at the moment, for instance, the TV. Someone would notice that majority of the tips for travellers are the same as those which a tourist can follow during everyday life.
Responsible tourism for beginners – summary
Responsible tourism is important as it may increase the satisfaction from tourism for both, travellers and the local community. All of the steps and tips introduced in this article are easy to follow, and they can make a difference. In one sentence, a responsible traveller cares about animals, nature, the experience of the community which he interacts with and, finally, tries to minimise the impact of his journey regarding the CO2 emission. For those who would like to obtain more information about the climate change, our team strongly recommend watching the movie „Before the Flood” which highlights lots of fundamental issues regarding this problem. Lastly, Tauri Travel is aware of challenges related to the tourism industry. We are travellers who follow described guide on a daily basis.