Happy travelers, while they carry back happy memories should take up this responsibility of leaving behind happy places. A termed coined for this simple act is Responsible Tourism!
3 Pillars of Responsible Tourism
To contribute to responsible tourism one must understand the 3 vital supports of responsible tourism are: economic, social and environmental.
How does one contribute to economic conditions of a holiday location? Before you commence your holiday question yourself — how you can contribute to the betterment of the holiday location. Have you done any of these below?
What to eat?
Do you still hunt for McDonald or KFC chains when holidaying? Please don’t. Hunt down local joints, eat local cuisines. As a non vegetarian you know Goa is famous for fish, so, go for sea food. Ask what fish is is available for the day. If the catch of Seer fish or mackerel is good for that day, then choose them for your lunch. That helps the local fishermen too. Accordingly in other places restrict your non veg consumption while on travel, go green in terms of food. Relishing a locally made petha in Agra will be much more responsible compared to relishing an ice cream in Agra which is available anywhere else. Avoid plastic bottles for water instead go for glass bottles which can be refilled again and again.
What to shop?
You may not have a big budget for souvenir but whatever little you spend be a little thoughtful about local crafts and produce. Souvenir shopping can be fun when you interact with locals who have put in lot of hard work. It helps them emotionally too when you understand their limitations and talent. After all it is their bread and butter. During my visit to Shantiniketan in West Bengal I interacted with leather bag makers in Amar Kutir there. I saw the effort and time they put in making one single bag. I bought one and a couple more for my friends. The feeling was satisfying and happy for all of us, the maker, the seller and me the buyer.
Where to stay?
This is slightly tricky. Home stays are the wisest choice in terms of contributing to the economic conditions of a holiday location. Many retired people, in the hope of some income offer bed and breakfast facilities. Yes you may not get swimming pool and spa facilities, but you will definitely experience the local warmth and friendliness. They are more wise about local festivals, local culture and interacting with them helps you understand local people well. In Coorg, I have stayed both at Orange County, one of the costliest resort there and also at a holiday home. I cherish the second one more. The gratitude the old couple had in their eyes when I was leaving the place is unforgettable!
What to waste?
Waste only time! Carry all other waste that you create back with you. Conserve energy with small but meaningful acts like switching off power when not in use. Conserve water, reduce, reuse, say no to plastics and don’t litter!
This is a very sensitive issue today. I have seen many tourists simply ignore the local cultural requirements and norms. These are few steps that I practice and suggest to be practiced as a responsible tourist.
- Dress properly when you visit the local sacred shrines.
- Learn a word or two of politeness in local language. Nanri in Tamil means thank you. Say that when you are lost and a local gives you directions to your destination.
- Don’t be obsessed with photography. I experience a lot difficulty in restraining myself on this issue, particularly because of faces of India series that I run in my blog. But over the years I have learnt to control, I learned the art of striking up a conversation and ask permission before taking pics. I fully understand people are not objects of entertainment unless they are putting up a show for the tourists.
- You are holidaying, so you wish to enjoy but that doesn’t mean you become nuisance to others. Don’t get drunk and be anti social. It is an offense at the holiday location as much as it is in your home town.
- Last but not the least; if you notice or suspect any kind of unnatural activity with local children, kindly report to local police station. Innocent ignorant children are often trafficked for prostitution and child sex.
Use of Animals
Unfortunately today under the garb of eco tourism lot of havoc is done on the natural habitat of the place. Animals are held captive, animals are reared for hunting, and animals made to pose with humans for photographs are some of the activities provided in the stay packages offered by resorts.
Cuddling and petting captive animals should seriously be boycotted. It is a hefty source of income for the rich resort owners at the expense of animals’ freedom. I was aghast reading that some resorts in Africa rear lions just for offering hunting opportunities to the stinking rich tourists.
In my own country too monkeys and bears are dressed up to entertain tourists. This must stop. As a tourist just turn your face away from them. Don’t feed wild animals; you will be doing more harm than good. This is definitely not the way to contribute to the economic conditions of holiday locations.
Displacement of Locals
Another environmental disturbance created by tourism is eviction of locals. Land sharks evict villages and mow down green mountain sides to erect posh holiday homes. How inhuman can one be! A well populated village with traditional style of living is asked to vacate; where will the villager go? Having lost his farm how will he earn his bread and butter? Does he have any other skill to survive? These are some vital questions that need to be answered before embarking on new tourism projects by government.
Guidelines for Hikers
Hikers, night campers create lot of waste and pollute the nature. They spend few hours but cause damage that sometimes last a life time. Government and local bodies should create responsible tourism destinations. They must work together with walking or biking groups, to create the right guidelines and messages to be followed while doing outdoor activities.
Finally to conclude I will say:
One must celebrate travel and not be a curse to the holiday location!