Responsible tourism is travel that positively benefits travelers and host communities, as well as their culture and environments. As part of our commitment to responsible tourism, Classic Escapes has prepared the following tips to help you travel responsibly. These guidelines will help you minimize your impact on the environment and facilitate interaction with and understanding of the local people.
Prepare Before You Go
- Learn about the geography, history, culture, and wildlife of the destination before you leave – as well as at least a few words of the local language. Familiarize yourself with U.S. Customs Department regulations regarding the importation of wildlife and hardwood products before you shop for souvenirs in the destination country.
- Pack small gifts from home to give to people you meet along the way. Postcards of special attractions in your city can be great conversation starters and you can write your contact information on them if you are inclined to strike up a pen pal arrangement. Writing tablets, pencils, or books are almost always appreciated by schools in developing countries.
- Evaluate the clothes and jewelry that you’re packing. Revealing clothes can be offensive in many countries. Wearing extravagant clothes and jewelry is also a thoughtless reminder of our differing standards of wealth and may tempt thieves.
- Leave excess packing materials, such as film boxes, at home. Many developing countries don’t have recycling programs or trash collection services. Pack a reusable water bottle that you can carry throughout the trip. Plan to bring home any toxic materials that you bring in to the country, such as batteries.
Understand Local Customs & Etiquette
- Knowing and respecting local ways of doing things will earn you the rapport you’ll need to interact positively with the local people and will make you feel more like a “welcomed guest” than an “ugly American.” Ask your professional guide for advice on how to handle any situation you’re unsure of regarding local customs.
- Go with the flow. Understand that our hurried concept of time is not the same in other cultures. You’ll find it less stressful to accept and adapt to this difference, and you may actually enjoy it!
- Travel with an open mind and curb your impulse to be judgmental. People around the world do things differently than we do; being open to new ways of doing things will enrich your experience.
Resist the temptation to give money to beggars on the street; they are often professionals.
- Always ask permission before taking photos of the local people. In some cultures it is perceived to be rude and offensive. We suggest that you don’t agree to pay for taking anyone’s photo; it is simply another form of begging which should be discouraged. The exchange of a token gift for a photograph, however – such as a Polaroid photo of your subject or a postcard from your home city – is an acceptable alternative.
- Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep, such as sending photos or helping with tuition.
- Bargain with a sense of humor and don’t get too serious or aggressive. Pay what something is worth to you and remember that a little more may mean a lot to the vendors and their families.
- Follow the tipping guidelines provided by Classic Escapes for your local guides and drivers and others. Tipping too much can actually be as inappropriate as tipping too little.
Minimize Your Impact on Wildlife & the Environment
- Do not buy products made from endangered species, old-growth hardwoods, and shells or coral from the beach or ocean.
- Do support the local economy by purchasing products made from renewable resources that showcase the talents of local craftspeople. This provides tremendous economic benefit to the local community and encourages local people to support the preservation of their environment.
- Use water, fuel, and electricity sparingly; in most developing countries these resources are extremely limited.
- Dispose of trash properly. This includes cigarette butts and used matches, as well as paper, plastic and even food scraps, which may be biodegradable but take a while to decompose.
- Do not intentionally disturb or encourage the disturbance of wildlife or habitats. Stay on trails and never ask drivers to go off the road so that you can get a better view or photo; this may destroy fragile habitat or be disruptive to animals and their behavior
- Familiarize yourself with and support projects benefiting the local environment and communities.