How to: Have a Holiday that Gives Back

Make sure you leave a positive mark on the places you visit by swotting up on the principles of responsible tourism. Here’s what you need to know…

Not to be confused with sustainable travel, the responsible tourism movement is all about empowering travellers to make a positive contribution to destinations around the world. “It aims to help create better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit,” says responsible tourism expert Dr Harold Goodwin (haroldgoodwin.info). “This means taking action to help make tourism more sustainable by maximising the positive economic, social and environmental impact of your trips.” Here’s how…

Check it before you wreck it

“Before setting off, the most important thing to do is to learn about the local issues, whether it’s a lack of employment or water shortages… get informed,” says Harold. Once you have the scoop on the hot topics of the area you can tweak your plans, if needed. For instance, you could spend some of your holiday time volunteering for a worthy cause. At Anantara Dhigu Resort in the Maldives, you can join the Coral Adoption Programme and help care for coral in the resort’s reef while at Atholl Palace in Perthshire in the UK, you can plant your very own tree on the grounds. Being responsible, however, can even be as simple as making sure you’re up to date on all your vaccinations and have a good travel health insurance policy in place. By taking control of your health, you’ll be less likely to need to draw upon the local health services.

Meet the locals

While travelling, make an effort to broaden your cultural understanding of the traditions and values of the native people. “Tourism is positive when it increases the understanding between cultures and people,” says Harold. During your trip, get stuck into meeting the residents by visiting local haunts. “By using a tour guide who is from that region, you’ll get to understand and share some of the real atmosphere of the place,” says Harold. Find a local guide who can curate your perfect tour by thinking outside the box – enjoying a home cooked meal at your host’s house may well rival your typical fine dining expeirence. 

Go for homegrown

Quite often, countries and local families are reliant on the income brought in by tourism so you can pay it forward by carefully selecting where you spend your money. If you’re in the market for some unique keepsakes, use the knowledge of your tour guide to hunt down the boutiques of local artisans where you’ll find a range of handmade items that not only look good but do good supporting local trade. Choose to stop for coffee in an independent café rather than a global chain and your money will go straight into the hands of a local entrepreneur.

Brush up on etiquette

As in our home towns, each place you visit has a set of social norms that you will do well to adhere to. In Japan, it’s considered rude to tip the waiter and while you may be used to jumping in the back of a taxi, it’s a social faux pas to not ride shotgun with the driver in Australia. It’s easy to research and, just like making the effort to learn some language basics, it’ll help put a smile of the face of all those you meet. 

To learn more, check out Harold’s book Responsible Tourism: Using Tourism for Sustainable Development, available at amazon.com