Responsible Tourism Made Easy – How to do your bit

Dan Mew

What is responsible tourism?

“Responsible tourism is tourism which: minimizes negative social, economic and environmental impacts. generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities.”

The subject of responsible tourism

Responsible tourism is really quite simple. It is about respecting others and the communities that you are visiting. Anyone can travel responsibly if they follow simple guidelines and have an awareness of the people around them. Responsible tourism is particularly important where volunteer travel is concerned, because there is likely to be an influx of tourists to an area at particular times of the year.

Responsible Volunteering made easy in Zanzibar

So, how do you ensure that you are being a responsible tourist?

Choose to travel with a company that really believes and promotes responsible tourism. Such a company is likely to: have an implemented responsible tourism policy; show due consideration for their host communities; be able to demonstrate the positive effects to the local area from their work; have a good knowledge of the local area and the support needed; have good relations with community figures and work in partnership with them to benefit the local community. You should be able to see from the company’s website that they really care about their host communities; not just about providing volunteer experiences.

Educate yourself! Prepare for your trip by researching and understanding the area that you are visiting. In doing so, you will know what the local cultural practices are and understand how you can be respectful of these. If you are travelling with a company, they should be able to provide you with guidance and advice about how to prepare for the journey ahead and what considerations you should have in mind. Setting expectations is very important here – it will ensure that you have the experience you desire and allow you to be a good tourist!

Responsible Volunteering made easy in Ghana

Consider simple ways that you can protect the area that you are visiting and support the people in your host community: Take a plastic bag around with you to collect litter whilst you are travelling; conserve water by taking shorter showers; dress respectably – observe local dress codes and be respectful of these; support the local economy by buying locally made souvenirs and purchasing from local tradespeople; ask before taking photographs of people; learn about and respect the cultures in your host community. Cultural practices are likely to be very different – embrace these and enjoy the change!

Responsible Tourism has not been introduced as a barrier to deter people from travelling; quite the opposite. It is a helpful consideration for people to have in mind when they are deciding on their next adventure. It hopefully provides some guidance to the traveller when selecting which organisation they would like to travel with and what kind of trip they would like to take. At the end of the day, we all want to make honest choices and ensure positive impact on others, and responsible travel guidelines can help people do this.

The reality is that we can all be responsible tourists if we take the right steps. Wherever you go, as long as you support local people, and respect their cultures and lands, you are being responsible.

Responsible Volunteering made easy in Kenya

So, how does African Adventures ensure it is being responsible in its operations?

Our responsible tourism policy outlines our commitment to doing things the right way. It is important to us that we contribute in a positive way to the volunteer travel industry, and we are delighted when our volunteers attest to the fact that their contribution and funds are making a real difference;

“This was my second trip to Kenya with African Adventures. This time it was even more rewarding to see the money we had been raising over the last year going directly to fund the new build at the Walk Centre.” – Catherine Vinall, volunteer with Chichester College.

“Everyone that comes on the trip gains invaluable life skills; how to adapt to different cultures, how to approach difficult situations and how to respect different people and ways of life. It’s hard work but it’s an experience that every student should have.” – Emily White, volunteer with Amery Hill School

We believe that responsible tourism comes largely from preparing volunteers for the adventure ahead. That is why we provide a dedicated volunteer area, welcome and pre-departure brochures, and pre-departure meetings; all of which are intended to educate and guide volunteers about the incredible journey coming up. Setting expectations is very important – there may be culture shocks and we know that some volunteers will go on an emotional journey, but it is a very worthwhile and powerful journey and one which will have a great impact on many young lives. We take pride in the fact that we are helping to create more globally aware citizens, and encourage the spirit of volunteering and fundraising, particularly in young people. As importantly, we are proud of the fact that responsible tourism is at the top of our list, meaning that we continue to be welcomed back into our host communities and maintain strong relations with our partners in Africa.