If you are reading this article, it's a pretty safe assumption that you have a keen interest in travel. We would also guess that if someone asked you if you thought it was important to travel responsibly, you would probably agree.
However, when sun, sea and sand are beckoning and we head off on our holidays, just how many of us are keeping sustainable tourism at the forefront of our minds? And just what we can we do, as individuals, to ensure we travel as responsibly as possible?
1. Choose environmentally friendly transport
Exploring a destination by bicycle or good old-fashioned walking is much better for the environment than renting a car, whilst travelling by public transport such as buses, trains or ferries produces less harmful emissions than if all those individual travellers were using private modes of transportation.
If you need to fly, choose a direct flight as it's the take-off and landing that generate the most carbon emissions, or check out your airline to see if they are part of an environmental programme such as the International Air Travel Association whose members invest in carbon reduction projects.
2. Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints
It might be tempting to bring some pretty shells home as souvenirs, but this practice can be extremely damaging to local ecosystems, particularly if millions of others are having the same idea. Snapping off a small piece of coral can cause huge areas to die - leave all as you find it.
In the same vein, never leave litter behind, no matter how small an item it might be. Some countries are simply unable to dispose of the mountains of toxic plastics that wash up on beaches, harm wildlife and poison the soil - reuse and recycle wherever you can.
3. Conserve water and energy
Water is a limited resource on this planet and a precious commodity in some countries you might visit. According to TheWaterProject.org, nearly one billion people around the world have no access to safe water. Whilst conserving water in countries where there is a ready supply does not necessarily make it more readily available in places of need, it helps stop us wasting what we have and draws awareness to this serious issue. Take short showers, turn off taps when brushing your teeth and cut down on washing towels unnecessarily.
4. Seek out eco-tours and accommodation
Eco-tours are tours which benefit the environment, wildlife or local community in a specific area. This sort of company might donate money to or run their own conservation projects and they will certainly regulate and design their tours to prevent any damage to the environment.
Eco hotels do their bit for sustainable tourism by making improvements such as using renewable energy sources and using organic products and natural materials in their construction in order to minimise any harmful impact.
Visit Las Terrazas Nature Reserve and eco-village on our Cuba Libre tour. See for yourself how a self-sustaining community can thrive and hike through wooded trails spotting colourful birdlife.
5. Support the local economy
Buy locally made products as souvenirs, eat and shop at independent establishments where possible and immerse yourself in the local culture to help support communities. In this way you are helping to preserve the local way of life and keep it alive.
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