Ethical travel can sound a little intimidating and conjure up images of eco-lodges with compost toilets, or using alternative modes of transport, such as sailing, instead of flying everywhere. But when you’ve only got a precious few weeks of annual leave it’s understandable to want a bit of luxury. Responsible tourism doesn’t have to be difficult however; it’s simply about respecting the country you’re visiting whilst also trying to minimise your impact on the planet.
A few easy steps - like cutting your CO2 output - can go a long way to making you more of an ethical traveller. But it’s important to tailor your behaviour to your destination too. Start by educating yourself about your host destination and finding out what tourism challenges the country is facing, and then try to avoid contributing to the problem.
To give you some pointers on a few of the things you can do to make a difference, the Flexicover team has put together its top tips for ethical travelling.
Use public transport to cut down on flights Even short-haul flights produce huge amounts of carbon dioxide. According to German non-profit Atmosfair, flying from London to Rome and back generates 234kg of CO2 per passenger. As a greenhouse gas, CO2 traps heat close to Earth, contributing to the impact of climate change. You can offset the carbon dioxide output of the flights you do need to take by donating money to carbon offsetting projects around the world. And if you’re travelling all around a country, try to swap domestic or short-haul flights for train and bus journeys. It’s usually cheaper too, and taking the journey more slowly can help you to better appreciate the country you’re visiting.
Leave the beaten track behind Getting off the beaten track isn’t just for backpackers who want to boost their travel credentials. Escaping the tourist hordes can make for a much more enjoyable and authentic experience of your host country. It also makes you an ethical traveller, because over-tourism has become a real issue in the world’s most popular destinations, damaging delicate natural ecosystems and impacting locals. Some governments are hitting back with measures to prevent too many tourists descending, like Thailand’s Maya Bay, made popular by its appearance in the film The Beach. Officials closed it until 2021, saying rising numbers of visitors have severely damaged the environment. There you have it: getting off the beaten track benefits both your travel experience, and the country you’re visiting.
Cut your water use Many destinations experience severe water shortages, and in some cases, like in Hyderabad in India, hotels get priority over locals for clean water, so it’s vital to be conscious about your water use. On a wider level, using less water also conserves the amount of energy and chemicals used for the destination’s water system. There are plenty of ways to achieve this when you’re on holiday. Avoiding baths and taking shorter showers is a simple action that drastically cuts your water usage. And do you need your sheets and towels changing every single day? Many hotels have systems for identifying whether your towels need washing or not, making it easy to do your bit.
Respect local cultures Acceptable behaviour in the UK doesn’t always translate to acceptable behaviour abroad, meaning that if you don’t do your research, you could accidentally offend and upset local people. One of the most frequent issues Brits come up against is dressing in a way that offends cultural sensibilities. Laos, on Southeast Asia’s backpacker trail, is a good example of this. While travellers often wear revealing clothes here due to the heat, this goes against cultural sensibilities, and locals are too polite to say anything. Perform a quick Google search when you’re planning your trip, and with a little extra effort, you can travel without worrying about upsetting local people. Trust us, it’s worth it.
Avoid activities that exploit animals This sounds like an obvious one, but it’s harder than you may think. Many of the world’s top destinations don’t have the same animal exploitation and abuse laws in place that we do in the UK. This means that you really need to do some destination-based research to discover which animal-related activities are okay and which are most definitely not. Seek out genuine ethical conservation projects, or respectful safari tours, to see animals in their natural habitat.
Wherever you plan on heading to over the coming months it’s good to know that Flexicover is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.