The idea of responsible travel is one that, here at Not In The Guidebooks, we hold to the upmost importance. For a long time, the tourism industry has had less concern for the ‘destinations’ it was sending people to than it should, focusing instead on providing the best possible experience for their customers, no matter what the cost.
A useful exercise for understanding responsible travel is acknowledging the fact that when you visit a beautiful island paradise or a mind-blowing mountainous landscape, you are also visiting someone’s home.
And the thing we need to keep foremost in our minds when visiting a home is the people that live there. Quite simply, responsible travel puts the locals first. It ensures that travellers work together with hosts and local residents to ensure that they actually benefit from travel, and aren’t left suffering as a result of it.
This is the concept that our entire brand is built off. We believe that travel done the right way can bring benefits to both travellers and locals, and bring the world closer together through a mutual respect and the shared goal of a more sustainable, fairer future.
What Exactly Is Responsible Travel?
Responsible travel is, essentially, leaving a place no different or better than when you arrived there. To wrap your head around what responsible exactly is, try considering what springs to mind when you think about irresponsible travel.
To us, irresponsible travel is travel that damages communities and ecosystems, that doesn’t support the local people in any economic sense, or dilutes and takes away traditional ways of life that the locals have been practicing for generations.
For example, huge chain hotels built in a travel destination don’t only damage the environment in a massive way, they also mean that travellers’ money, your money, ends up going to the internationally owned hotel chain instead of directly to the people that live there.
Really big facilities can put a strain on local resources such as water and energy usage, leaving the locals short whilst the paying tourists enjoy whatever they need. These facilities also produce an enormous amount of waste, and large crowds tend to leave trails of rubbish wherever they go, putting yet more strain on the local community’s waste management services.
The impact of overtourism can often leave communities overwhelmed, unable to either accommodate such huge numbers of people. This leaves large companies the opportunity to swoop in and essentially take over the commodity (the destination) and run it how they see fit.
Locals can often find themselves pushed out of restaurants, priced out of accommodation, or simply alienated by large groups of tourists when overtourism occurs. Think cruise ship crowds overwhelming Venice, busloads of tourists flooding a rural village on a hop-on/hop-off tour of India…
These are the practices we need to avoid if we’re to bring travellers and locals together for mutual benefit.