Green Hotels & Responsible Tourism Initiative

The Responsible Traveler Guide

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Excursions

Sightseeing

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Traveling is all about getting to know the places you visit. From a city tour in a European city to world heritage sites, planning excursions with the thought of having the least possible impact while also benefiting the local community will make for a satisfying outing. Some things you can do include:

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  • Read up on the destination before you go and learn a few words of the local language
  • Respect local cultures, traditions, and holy places - if in doubt, ask.
  • Local people have different ways of thinking and diverse concepts of time; being patient and accepting will go a long way in enjoying your visit.
  • Get into the habit of asking questions about local ways of doing things.
  • Ask the hotel or tourism authority if there are conservation or social projects that you could visit on your trip, and how you could help support them.
  • Hire a local guide - you'll discover more about the area's culture and people, and they will earn an income directly from you.
  • Wildlife and ecotourism can help conserve endangered species and some cultural traditions, take interest of how this is being done.
  • Watch wildlife responsibly and in the least disruptive way possible.
  • Don't touch, handle, feed, or ride on aquatic life. These actions may stress the animal, interrupt natural behaviors, or provoke aggressive behaviors in a normally non aggressive species.
  • Be concerned about the welfare of animals in marine or land shows, and if not satisfied of the conservation role and treatments in these performances, avoid these attractions altogether.
  • Visit national parks and private reserves to help fund conservation projects and environmental education.
  • Support rural and indigenous tourism as it will provide income to communities in isolated areas.
  • Keep the places you visit clean. Always dispose of your own waste.
  • Archeological sites are fragile places. Tread carefully and do not take anything from the site. They are the local peoples' heritage and they should stay untouched.
  • Visit museums, especially those which showcase the local history. The visitors' fee will go to preserving the local culture.
  • UNESCO's World Heritage sites [14] are a treasure to humanity. They are always worth a visit for their history, culture, customs, and legends.
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Other wonderful pastimes that make travel enjoyable, benefit the destination, and get you connected with local people include:

  • Sit it in a park or public square, people watch, or start a conversation with a local.
  • Go off the beaten track and visit non-touristy neighborhoods to have a drink or a meal in authentic places.
  • Picnic in parks or the beach, and be part of the recreational activities local people enjoy.
  • Attend religious services, but be sure you show respect by dressing appropriately and be aware of expected behaviors and customs.
  • Watch festivals and special ceremonies in an unobtrusive and thoughtful way.

Eating

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One of the greatest pleasures of traveling is eating, and there is generally plenty of it on holidays! From trying an exotic dish at a family owned restaurant, to picking up fresh produce in a farmers' market, going local is the best way to support the place you visit, while also enjoying fantastic food. Some considerations are:

  • Consume foods that are produced locally, and require less wasteful transportation to reach the area you are visiting.
  • Eat local dishes as much as you feel comfortable in doing, and ask questions about the origin of the food.
  • Order off the buffet or specials of the day, as these foods are generally prepared from fresh produce and in larger quantities.
  • Always avoid food waste by ordering the right sized portions.
  • Drink draft beer and carbonated beverages from the tap/fountain, to avoid bottles and extra packaging.
  • If possible, drink tap water at restaurants, versus bottled water.
  • Buy the local bottled water brand, if tap water is not recommended. This avoids the transportation carbon footprint and packaging.
  • Ask about the source of the food if it is a concern to you, i.e. salmon, other fish, and seafood [15], as well as any menu items which may be from endangered species, are scarce, or are unethically sourced.
  • Ask the hotel, especially all inclusive resorts, what happens with leftover food. Do they compost it, give to employees, or donate it to the local charity?
  • Drink organically made beverages where available.
  • Try regional wines, beers and spirits instead of drinking multinational brands which have a bigger environmental footprint because of shipping

Shopping

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Shopping is a wonderful way of supporting the places you visit. But above all, it gives you a chance to bring back unique gifts which showcase the culture and heritage of the places you visit. For a "guilt free" shopping experience, and to ensure that your money goes to those who need it the most, keep some of these tips in mind:

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  • Buy crafts made with indigenous materials and labor from the local community, versus mass produced souvenirs which are often imported and have a bigger ecological footprint.
  • Avoid souvenirs made from endangered woods and minerals, or animal products from threatened species. When in doubt, always ask the vendor about the source of the materials and labor used.
  • Patronize locally owned businesses, markets, and bazaars, instead of large shopping areas.
  • Buy lightweight and small souvenirs, as the extra space and weight uses more energy to bring home.
  • Buy something the locality is famous for; something unique which identifies the destination. People are proud of their heritage and love to share it with the world.
  • Bargaining may be expected in some cultures, but avoid aggressive and confrontational behavior. A fair price, or a little more, may provide much needed support for a local vendor and his/her family.

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