Talking about ethics in travel is a risky road. Doesn’t travelling generally exploit culture, commodify ancient monuments, and cause even more environmental damage?
While it is true that tourists are constantly (and perhaps even increasingly) travelling ignorantly and unethically. Take the Australian men who stripped down to their ‘budgie smugglers’ in Malaysia back in 2016 or the many attractions around the world that are slowing being destroyed by foot traffic, for example.
As a result, I’ve come to understand that travel, when done consciously and sustainably, is so important. Not only is sustainable travel crucial for incorporating ethical practice into our everyday lives, it also helps us learn why we need to take action on a global level.
1. Sustainable travel promotes environmental conservation
Sustainable tourism is a key driver for changing attitudes regarding conservation. One of the most important elements of sustainable travel is keeping our carbon footprint in mind. In doing so, we can minimise our impact and learn to support businesses that make the best use of environmental resources.
Through interacting with these businesses and reflecting on our own impact, we increase our awareness of environmental challenges. When we spend enough time immersed in the environment, and around other people who are working in conservation, our motivation to help resolve environmental challenges will only increase.
2. Sustainable travel promotes cultural respect
If you visit a different place with the intention of learning about local cultures and contributing to intercultural understanding, you are already travelling sustainably. Cultural sustainability, a facet of sustainable travel, is about conserving ancient traditions and customs. It is about highlighting the importance of respect when taking part in activities that involve tradition. When we travel sustainably, we are creating a positive impact that preserves culture for the people we are visiting, and for all future visitors.
3. Sustainable travel provides economic benefits for local businesses
There’s a lot of money in tourism. Sustainable travel means spending your money consciously and giving back to local people and their communities, wherever you are in the world. When we support local businesses, we are making room for stable employment and opportunities for communities who appreciate it more than the average holiday resort.
4. Sustainable travel provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists
We create more meaningful connections with local people when we travel sustainably. We begin to develop a greater understanding of cultural, social, and environmental issues around the world. If we are moved enough by this, we may even feel a need to give back to our hosts and contribute for an enjoyable experience for future tourists. Sustainable tourism not only benefits the countries we travel to but the way we live our lives. We begin to bring sustainable practice with us wherever we go – not just our own backyard.
When we travel to understand issues facing different cultures and environmental regions around the world, we can bring our understanding home and make more of a difference in our everyday practice.
This is why I actively promote sustainable tourism. Travel creates resources for environmental and cultural conservation, gives people the opportunity to build better lives, and brings people closer together. Add sustainability and respect into the mix, and we’ve got ourselves a winner.
So, travel. Get out there and go on adventures. But promise me three things:
- Go consciously
- Embrace responsibility
- Make a positive difference (even if it is only a small one)