Responsible tourist, sustainable tourism
As a visitor, you hold several trump cards that can ensure your stay will benefit both you and your hosts. Here are some tips to help make your holiday all the more memorable… and sustainable.
Be curious. Learning about the history, culture, heritage and customs of your destination will allow you to get the most from your stay and your contacts with the local population. Invaluable sources of information are your travel agent, the official website of your destination country, and tourist guides.
Be prepared. By bringing only what you need to enjoy a relaxing holiday, you will be supporting airline companies’ efforts to lighten their loads, save fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even better, by discarding nonessentials (like wrapping and plastics) before you leave, you’ll be helping to protect the environment in your host country.
Be open-minded. By reading up and preparing ahead of time, you’ll be in the best position to fully appreciate and enjoy what awaits you at your destination. New faces, a new language, new ways of life and new customs are just some of the discoveries you’ll enjoy making—and remembering when you get home.
Respect your hosts. A smile and courteous behaviour can open many doors. Learning a few basic words like “hello,” “please” and “thank you” in the local language can mean the difference between a polite welcome and much warmer relations with local people. Similarly, it is important to respect their way of life and privacy—for instance, by asking for permission before taking photos, and paying for the privilege, if need be.
Appreciate local culture and heritage. Age-old local and national customs, architectural wonders, artistic accomplishments and places of worship are what make up the wealth of a nation and a people. Your holiday is a unique opportunity to discover and appreciate these treasures directly. Give them the attention and respect they deserve.
Be discreet. On the beach, at your hotel, in public buildings and, above all, in places of worship, dress appropriately, taking local customs into account. Likewise, flaunting your jewelry, digital camera, or wads of cash is not only in bad taste; it could be considered offensive and might attract the kind of attention you don’t want.
Be aware. No matter what guise it takes, exploitation is unacceptable. Make sure you pay a fair price when buying goods or services, and treat the people you are dealing with in a courteous and decent manner. Be aware that sex tourism can be hazardous to your health, and that the sexual exploitation of children is a crime punishable by imprisonment.
Support the local economy. Buy your souvenirs from local artists and craftspeople, and don't bargain just for the sake of it: the amount you may “save” won’t mean much to you, but it could make a world of difference to a small shopkeeper. Don't be afraid to wander off the beaten track in search of a restaurant or bar run and patronized by locals. Hire a guide or interpreter. Such actions help support the local economy and will make your holiday all the more rewarding.
Protect resources. Water, electricity, gas and other forms of energy are scarce and precious resources for people in many countries. Use them sparingly: for instance, shower instead of taking a bath to save water; instruct personnel not to change bed sheets and towels every day so as to save energy; turn off lights and air conditioners when not in use; use public transportation or rent a fuel-efficient vehicle.
Safeguard the environment. The sea, beaches, coral reefs, exotic fish and animals, indigenous plants and trees… natural surroundings were probably a major factor in your choice of destination. These surroundings are a treasure to be preserved for the benefit of the local population and future visitors. Do not encourage any action that exploits these natural resources—for instance, the sale of souvenirs made from endangered animal or plant species. Your holiday environment is precious: treat it with care.