Ethical travel is not something new. There are tourism companies out there that are now exploiting the ethical travel niche through the so-called ‘greenwashing.’
The region is now slowly becoming more of a playground of young travelers and party backpackers. The local companies are not yet socially aware of the destructive effects of mass tourism. Cheapness and spontaneity on a massive level are not sustainable anymore. However, it is never too late to guide travelers to become more aware of the impact their travel choices can have on the local communities and the environment.
Five ways to become a socially conscious traveler
Support 100% local entrepreneurs or locally-owned small businesses
Just as this region is gradually becoming the playground of cheap travelers, it is also becoming a typical exploitation haven. The rise of oligarch-owned or foreign-owned tourism companies is killing the local industry, driving the residents out and increasing the price of goods. If you like to frequent family-owned businesses in your country, you can also do the same while you travel. Try to book your tours with 100% locally-owned small businesses.
It is important to see where the money goes. Go to locally-owned small hotels and restaurants. The locals are empowered when travelers help keep the money in the community.
Don't take the ‘Cattle Boat’ tours
There's a saying that people tend to become stupid when in big groups. Choosing a small group for your tour means that people are more aware of their environmental impact. The big boats and ocean cruises use more fuel, and it is the worst kind of mass tourism there is – consumption taken to its extreme.
A lot of locals still depend on cattle boat tours for livelihood, however, it is never too late to spread environmental awareness and educate the masses. The old adage ‘less is more’ is true in all aspects of life. Choosing quality travelers is way more profitable in the long run, and at the same time, more ethical.
Genuinely participate in the environmental campaign
Once you travel, you become part of this environmental campaign. It means that you are setting a good example by not bringing or using single-use plastic rubbish to your destination. However, it is too hypocritical to say that you’ll no longer see plastic anywhere you go. Small local shops in the villages still sell products in small plastic packaging that can be afforded by the poor.
People throwing plastics into the sea is actually just 1/10th percent of the problem. It is way easier to blame the local consumers as always. What about those plastic bottles from other countries that are washed up on the shore? The contributors to the rubbish in the ocean on a massive scale are actually those big companies that manufacture goods in plastic packaging, the China plastic industry, and fast food chains. And if the government can’t bring them down, at least, try not to fully support those unethical companies that target the poor as you travel. However, this approach will only be effective if done collectively.
Plan your trip ahead of time
There’s really nothing wrong with being spontaneous especially while you are still young, however, spontaneous travel on a massive scale is just not sustainable anymore. As a mindful traveler, you should learn to plan your trip ahead of time. In this way, you can take your time in choosing ethical agencies and researching local businesses in your destination.
Responsible travel is about being sensitive to your impact while visiting a country. Never choose a tour company whose prices seem too good to be true. The “you get what you pay for” is more applicable when visiting developing countries. A local company that slightly charges more are more likely to be committed to paying their guides proper salaries and act in an environmentally responsible manner.
Immerse yourself in the local culture
All-inclusive resorts and hotels prevent authentic experiences. Choosing them means that you’ll only make the rich richer.
Food is part of the culture, so instead of being too fragile during your trip, find out where the locals eat. Being a regular human being, the food might be good for you too. Food connects people and you’ll likely meet a local who will help you out. This is a responsible choice as you are supporting the local economy while taking a good cultural knowledge with you.