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How to be a Responsible Traveler

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A survey prepared by the Travel Industry Association of America with the support of the National Geographic Society suggests that more than 55 million American travelers desire travel experiences that "protect and preserve the ecological and cultural environment" of the destinations they visit. An even greater number, 77 million, prefer to learn as much as possible about their destination's customs, geography and culture. To meet these demands something called "community tourism" has developed. Community tourism refers to locally-initiated offerings that preserve the natural and cultural resources of destinations, while producing better livelihoods and higher standards of living for residents. It empowers local people to identify the cultural and natural resources in their midst and convert them into assets that can improve the economic life of their community. In so doing, community tourism becomes the engine for restoring and preserving those irreplaceable resources. This style of tourism falls under the umbrella of low-impact, socially conscious travel widely know as "ecotourism." Each trip we take creates an opportunity to have either a positive or negative effect on our destination; thankfully, the choice is ours. By spending our tourism dollars responsibly and patronizing outfitters and lodges that practice ecotourism, we send a powerful message. Our habits can encourage others to follow our lead, and challenge the average company to raise the bar when it comes to managing their environmental footprint. For more information on how to be a sustainable traveler, check out the advice below...

Before you go:
There are conflicting uses of the term ecotourism. Many tour operators use this term for marketing purposes only, appealing to the public's increased awareness of environmental matters. Other tour companies are very careful to construct their itineraries in an eco-friendly way. Each trip you take is an opportunity to make a difference, and by doing some preliminary research you can select an environmentally responsible company whose trips benefit the communities in which they take place.

Here are a list of questions to help you discern if the company you are selecting really is an eco-tour company:
Does the company:
  1. Build environmental and cultural awareness through education, activities, and pre-departure information?
  2. Provide direct financial contributions for conservation efforts?
  3. Minimize impact on the environment and the local culture?
    • Travel in small groups?
    • Train tour guides in "Leave No Trace" ethics?
    • Respect local culture?
    • Look for lodgings that emphasize local traditions?
    • Seek out excursions offered by local or indigenous people?
  4. Support local businesses and service providers?
    • Use locally owned services - hotels, lodges and transport companies - to ensure that as much revenue as possible stays within, and therefore benefits local communities?
    • Partake of community tourism offerings whenever possible - walking tours, overnight stays, purchases of locally made products?
  5. Offer site-sensitive accommodations?
  6. Use hotels that:
    • Conserve natural resources-water, electricity, etc.?
    • Use recycled products?
    • Use non-toxic cleaning products?
    • Use fresh, filtered air in guest rooms rather than recycled air?
    • Reduce water consumption by opting out of frequent changes of towels and bed linens?
    • Reduce electricity consumption by favoring fluorescent or other low-energy lighting?

While you're traveling:
When you are away from home there are a number of steps you can take to help ensure tourism remains a positive experience from everyone and that we leave places as we found them:
Be Respectful of Nature Reduce Waste Pack it in, Pack it out Protect Water Systems & Oceans Leave what you Find Be Considerate of Other Visitors Respect Cultural Differences Purchasing Power  
See our Responsible Tours page for trip ideas.
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