Did you know that the United Nations is reporting 1.2 billion international travelers are taking on this big beautiful world every year? This just shows why ecotourism is so important.
That is a stat we can get behind! We love to see as more and more people travel this world experiencing different cultures, stepping out of their comfort zones and making new friends from all different walks of life.
We have a deep respect for the travel industry. As we find ourselves so completely immersed in it we can’t help but appreciate its effects in our world. Not just on a personal but also an economical level as well.
We have made friends from literally all over the world and have become completely immersed in all things travel. With work, school – and as our hobby, we have a great understanding of the importance of TRAVELING ETHICALLY. With sustainability on the rise, it is a wonder why people aren’t bringing this concern towards tourism impacts and making a vow to turn to responsible travel.
Too many people think that sustainable tourism is the responsibility of the government, hotels, and tour companies. We know this isn’t the truth. While tourism companies do have the responsibility to create wholesome travel experiences with eco tours we, as travelers, hold a very similar duty.
What Is Ecotourism?
You are likely wondering what ecotourism is and “how do I travel sustainably”. Don’t worry, you are not alone. Many people associate traveling sustainably to mean solely the ethical treatment of animals. While this is a great part of it and incredibly important, the concept is much bigger than this.
Ecotourism focuses on environmental, cultural, and animal welfare.
Environmental factors largely come from the over-consumption of materials. While the gas that is used to get around is worth noting and paying attention to, the real concern comes from the massive consumption of single use items. These include water bottles, take out containers, coffee cups, plastic straws, etc.
From a minimalist standpoint, all the useless purchases made while traveling also take a negative toll on the environment. But it’s not only when you’re traveling. “Disposable” straws have gained notoriety in the news and have created a movement against using them. This is a way you can help the environment in your daily life.
Those cotton elephant pants you wear while walking the streets of Bangkok use an astounding amount of resources to make and are likely going to end up in a landfill sooner rather than later.
Every area you visit will have a completely new culture and religion that they hold very close to them. While you may not follow the same thoughts, it is important to consider yourself a guest. Degrading others is not what traveling is about. Instead, using your time abroad to immerse yourself in this culture and gain insight in the why and how behind it can help you to be a much more worldly person.
Animal welfare is incredibly important and perhaps the most talked about area of ethical tourism. It is important to remember that wildlife is meant to be just that: wild. While it may be tempting to get up close and personal with these majestic animals, it leads to a life of slavery for them. The taming practices seen to make these animals suitable for human interaction are incredibly brutal and not worth a simple photo op. It is best to avoid these places to ensure the longevity of these animals.
Social media, specifically Instagram, has greatly threatened our ability to practice ecotourism. This includes everything from the drive to get that “Instagram worthy” picture by releasing lanterns in Thailand to riding elephants in Africa, or taking an insta story of you bargaining down a new shirt for much less than you know is worthy. The impacts of sustainable tourism can be strong and life changing for many.
How Can You Make A Difference?
As we move to a world where more and more people are limiting their plastic use, it is important to remember that just because you are out of your own country and it may be harder to carry around a refillable bottle, it holds the same importance.
For us, when traveling to Southeast Asia we were incredibly uncomfortable with the amount of water bottle consumption happening around us (us included). We thought this was the norm and simply didn’t even know that there was possibly another way. That is until we saw a water refill station outside one of our hotels in Thailand.
It then became apparent to us that the locals weren’t drinking out of these cheap plastic water bottles like all the tourists were.
There is a way to do it, we were just not trying hard enough.
Eco tourism needs to be an active conscious thought while you’re traveling.
It is important to ask yourself whenever you travel how are you making a difference. The tourism sector is amazing for its ability to open your eyes and raise awareness to what is happening in different areas of the world. When visiting there it is important to remember that every dollar you spend is a vote for how you want their economy to run and how you want the world to be. The same is true with your time.
- Volunteering is powerful!
- Enjoying your meals at local small businesses can make a great difference.
- Buying handmade local souvenirs is important.
- Not supporting child beggars and instead helping on ground organizations improve the poverty these kids live in will change lives.
Sustainable Holidays: How To Make Your Trip More Ethical
The truth is, everywhere can be a sustainable tourism destination if you make it a priority. Beyond the environmental impacts of tourism, there are many other concerns the tourist sector has regarding sustainability issues.
Responsible tourism is no longer an option. You can no longer claim it to be something you just didn’t think of. As a traveler, you have a responsibility to ensure that you are only making positive impacts on the country and culture in which you are visiting.
How do you practice responsible tourism when you are abroad? Talk to us about it in the comment section below! Also, share with your friends! Together, we can make this world a better place!
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Traveling through asia always hurts me too in the amount of plastic waste you see in such rural areas. Would love to connect in the future as I own a ecotourism company called TravGanic. Great post.
It is so sad. The truth is, there is no need for it. Many people don’t know but there are many places you can get your water refilled safely and you most certainly do NOT need all the plastic bags from 7-11!
Would love to find a way to work together on this mission of spreading the word on sustainable tourism!
Sustainable travel is truly the responsibility of every single traveler. I always go for local restaurants, street fruit vendors, and market to support their local small businesses. I take it not just a responsibility, this is something I love myself. Indeed the great challenge is to stop using plastic bottles. It hurts to see how careless we are not to keep clean the God gifted nature around us.
I couldn’t agree with you more! To me, I see shopping local and getting in on the local customs and norms as a privilege more than a responsibility. The plastic bottles is a lot harder, although it absolutely can be done. In Thailand they actually have filtered water refill stations in a lot of places as well as large barrels delivered to local businesses for locals to use – all filtered. Most times when you ask locals will be more than happy to fill you in on how they get their water supply! 🙂 I have a real problem with all the plastic bags too! Your 7/11 sandwich doesn’t need a bag that will more than likely end up in the waters you’re snorkeling through! We have a long way to go for sure but a little bit of awareness could really shape this cause! Glad to have you on board <3
I love these practical tips. I’ve been guilty of the plastic bottle use but I really try to always carry my own container. Looking forward to reading more!
I hear ya. I am guilty of a lot of unsustainable traveling acts. BUT I believe in how important it is to educate. Once I learned about my actions I felt a duty to advocate for how important this is. There are plenty of small things that can make a real difference in the world! Great to hear you are taking the steps to make this world a better place!!
Thank you for highlighting some things things tourists can do on a personal level. I think immersing yourself in a culture is so important. I definitely want to make sustainable travel more of a focus going forward!
Immersing yourself in the cultures is so important, I couldn’t agree with you more. We have such a power when traveling to gain the knowledge and experience of other cultures and bring it with us through life. Respecting that by going into these encounters with respect and humility is so important. What a beautiful privilege it is to be able to get so immersed in so many ways of life! Isn’t traveling amazing! <3
Love love LOVE this post! I could not agree more about the responsibility lying with us as travelers to make changes instead of waiting for others to do it for us. We saw this when hiking in Indonesia, people were complaining that the tour guides did not pick up the trash on the mountain when it was so obviously left by those visiting. Tourism workers are not hired to clean our trash! It’s offensive and weird. Thanks for highlighting these issues!
I love this! This makes it all so clear! It is up to EVERYONE. If you see something in the ocean, pull it out. If you see garbage on the ground, pick it up. These small easy steps are so important. This sounds like an issue with humility as well. We aren’t better than our tour guides. We are all human. We are all equal. Love to have you on board with this beautiful movement!
Thank you for drawing out some simple tips for eco-friendly travel! It’s so easy to forget the impact we have when visiting other countries. The point about tourists drinking out of plastic bottles while locals weren’t is very poignant!
It is so true. We are on vacation and somehow so is our responsibility and morals. We have such a great power when traveling, it is so important that we use it! Simple respect for the culture, the animals and the environment is so important and can go so far in this world! “Off the beaten path” is so appealing for a reason. We need to keep our tourist zones whole! <3 Glad to have you on board!
Thank you for this article. It is very enlightening and it definitely made me think about how to improve my travel ways. Hope travelers can look past just being a tourist and actually start caring about the places they visit and the people that live in them.
I hope so too! I think for so many they simply don’t think about it. I don’t think it is a lack of respect, I think it is simply education. Most travelers I have encountered have very good and ethical souls. I think if we just remember to treat animals well, treat the local cultures with the respect they deserve and maintain a positive effect on the environment you love immersing yourself in then we can really make this world great! 🙂 SO glad to hear that you are on board <3
Unfortunately, our favorite pass time is actually really bad for the environment. Especially air travel. People definitely can make a huge difference by changing their behavior though, and the first step is realizing it needs to be done. Lovely post!
So glad to have you on board. While I do agree that the carbon omissions from air travel are harsh, I truthfully believe the benefits gained from travel are too important to ignore. I think the best way to deal with this carbon footprint is to limit your use on the ground. You do not need to rent a taxi, instead take a local bus, walk or rent a bicycle! Avoid eating meat for a bit (or forever) in order to get your footprint way down. The amount of growth, respect and love you get by immersing yourself in such different cultures is enough to end wars. I truthfully believe if more people immersed themselves in different cultures the world would be such a better place.
We all do need to be responsible travelers and do our part to protect the environment. Southeast Asia and the over abundance of water bottles and plastic saddened me. On my part, I used a water bottle filter and would refill huge jugs of water at the stations. No animal park visits for me!! Thanks for bringing this important issue up!
That is so great to hear! I honestly think that the water bottle consumption has simply become a norm for travelers to the point where many travelers believe that is the only way. I know I thought that had to be the only way for a while. After realizing that there were many other options I was pleasantly surprised! I am so glad to hear you have been doing your part to keep our impact low! Great job! 🙂
This is a very important post. I’m always happy to eat and support local products in a new destination. It sickens me to see IGers riding animals and posing with the locals as props. They give travelers and bloggers a bad name.
I completely agree! I am happy to hear you say the part of locals as props. I think this is done so widely and can be great to do if done so respectfully. Getting to know the person, learning about them and their culture BEFORE taking the photo AND asking permission is important. These are people not props. Taking the photo and describing the culture can go a very long way in taking all the benefits you got from your experiences abroad and sharing it with others but it has to be done so in a respectful manner. Not for a simple IG like. Great point!
Yes, finally people are addressing this. Its so important while traveling to consider this all. I like some of the tips and the facts. Great blog.
This is a very important topic that needs to be addressed and I am glad you are using your platform to shed some light on this. Way to go! And yes, sustainable travel is more than just caring about animal cruelty (which is a huge and important part like you mentioned.) It is a conscious everyday effort, even at home (because our home is someone else’s tourist destination — and our home matters too!)
This is a great article. Many resorts these days are advertising “certified sustainable”