From authenticity to zero waste: An A-Z of Responsible Travel
How many times have you read the words ‘responsible travel’ or ‘sustainable tourism’, or ‘eco-hotels’ and ‘green travel’? Then there’s ethical travel, community tourism and conservation… As travellers, how do you know what it all means – or whether it means anything at all? 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 affords 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.
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. To ensure that our trips avoid any activities that exploit domestic or working animals, we’ve joined the World Animal Protection (WAP) list of elephant friendly travel companies 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 towards threatened natural environments, which is intended to support conservation efforts. By working with eco-friendly lodges such as Grootbos in South Africa and partnering with rainforest preservation charity Cool Earth, we’re doing the best we can to support global conservation efforts.
‘Flygskam,’ or flight shame, is a recent phenomenon which seems to be taking the travel world by storm. With the rise of climate change activism, there’s an increasing guilt around taking flights. By its very nature though, Responsible Travel doesn’t encourage people to stop travelling. Instead, Responsible Travel suggests 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.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory – see E: Eco-friendly for more!
Responsible Tourism is about making sure every traveller is included. From those with disabilities to LGBTQ+ travellers, no traveller is left behind.
J: Just go!
Although websites like the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office are the most reliable sources of travel safety information, the media can tend to take over and tarnish some perfectly safe destinations as ‘no-go areas.’ However, by being a responsible traveller and seeking out which destinations are safe to travel to, you’ll be helping local people and most likely get to see incredible places with tourist footfall. There’s no better reason than to just go!
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.
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.
Although it comes with it’s own set of issues, when it’s done correctly, voluntourism – or the act of travelling abroad to participate in some kind of voluntary work – is one of the most valuable ways of travelling responsibly.
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.