Ritesh Datta, Co-Founder of Alpaviram
I opened my mailbox to be greeted by a new email from Amazon. The heading read: "Vacation on your mind?" Unable to resist the temptation to check if I received some award to travel across the world for free, opened it. The email, clearly a promotional one, was about the “must dos” for one’s summer vacations (and here I thought summer vacations made sense only in school), and had some attractive pictures of travel accessories, gadgets, fashionable items, essentials among others, along with a not-so-subtle hyperlink to the website, aptly named: “Shop Now”. Disgusted at not winning the free trip to across the world and beyond, I quickly clicked the “Delete” button, and prepared to lean back and start reflecting on my travel experiences, when suddenly the thought crossed my mind – what are the MUST-Dos FOR A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELLER?
For people who have not yet been exposed to the concept of “responsible tourism”, or may have heard about it but are not sure what it entails, #alpaviram sees it as an attitude of tourists and tourism services providers – towards being conscious about how they are affecting the local economies, natural habitats, cultures and heritages during their travel and through their service offerings (respectively) and taking responsibility for the same. So what would these mean for a tourist who aspires to be a responsible traveller? Some pointers:
PLANNING YOUR TRAVEL:
1. Read, ask and get to know the local culture, customs and get to know the basic things you need to care about: Are you travelling to a more conservative society where you’re expected to wear covered clothing? Or if you’re a non-vegetarian travelling to a primarily vegetarian land, how do you ask around for your daily dose of meat without offending the locals?
DURING YOUR TRAVEL:
1. Even though you may have money to splurge on staying in international hotel chains, selecting a homestay would not only help you save a little but may also give you an option to know more about the place and its people.
2. Conserve water. The world across is facing an acute shortage of potable water, and letting that tap run while you shave or make that international call adds to the woe of local community.
3. Minimize energy consumption. That lightbulb you prefer keeping on at night, or the air conditioner, uses a lot of energy. Choosing lodging options that have been designed using smart architecture that use sunlight more effectively, or use solar power to generate the required energy would help you minimize your carbon footprints for sure.
4. Use public transport where possible. Hire a bicycle or walk when convenient – great way to meet people, and also minimize your contribution to the pollution levels.
5. Hire a local guide. Not only do you learn more about the place and its culture and people but you are helping someone earn their livelihood. And who knows, many local guides will be able to show you their favourite places and eateries that are totally off the map!
6. Go shopping and buy local, but be careful about buying leather or ivory products. You do not want to contribute to wildlife poaching or other manufacturing industries that may not be following the fair-trade standards.
7. While it may not be possible to protest everytime you see a right violation (like a child labourer at a restaurant), do raise your voice – either at that point, or at least later via Twitter, Blogs or any other way you feel comfortable.
AFTER YOUR TRAVEL:
Not sharing your experiences with the world is depriving someone the chance to make an informed decision. Look back at how you struggled through your travel research. Alpaviram offers a great platform to share your responsible tourism stories, along with a fantastic, free-of-cost, professional editing services and social media marketing. If your story highlights responsible tourism, it needs to be shared.