As January is a time that many people think about and plan holidays, Collette McEntee thought it a good time to look at what’s meant by ecotourism, responsible travel and sustainable tourism. Explaining to friends, who were not familiar with the idea, she described it as “Tourism that leaves as little effect on the environment as possible.” The general reaction was “Never heard of it, but it can only be a good thing”. She now tells us more.
Collette McEntee at the Taj Mahal, India
I have done my fair share of travel with a lot more to do. I have been happy to hop on a plane and be in the air for hours on end until I reach my next venture! India, New York, Paris, Glasgow, Kerry to name but a few of the places that I have had the pleasure to absorb.
However, I can hardly turn in my bed, these days, without harming the planet. It’s tough to keep up and sometimes, to even care. It is increasingly clear that almost everything I do, results in someone/somewhere suffering. Aviation fuel is a damaging contributor to our planet and is not taxed properly and so, by simply sitting on a plane, I am at fault.
IT’S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM!
It’s not all doom and gloom, though! Responsible travel can be adhered to in many ways and it starts at our own daily practices and lifestyle. Carry your own water bottle to refill, avoid using disposable products and packaging, reuse your towel, shower once a day (if even!) – the list is endless. We tend to go into holiday mode when we are away and forget that it’s the same sky and land that we are sharing. Avoid all-inclusive holidays; most of the time, premade, all-inclusive deals are serving a pastiche of what the place has/used to offer. It does not serve well to the locals or a true experience to the traveller/tourist and just pumps money back into the travel company’s base economy.
If you are travelling a long distance, you can make the trip worthwhile by interacting with the place and filter as much money back into the local economy. Making an effort with the new culture and integrating with the people will get you an authentic experience at an agreeable cost (even free!). Avoid short and/or shopping trips abroad where you will visit the same chain stores that are at home but just a car/bus/ferry journey away. Ferries and coaches have lower CO2 emissions per passenger than most aircraft.
Your visit drips back into environments and economies. When researching, don’t just look at the things to do but who/what trip providers are taking you there and their policies. There is a wealth of good, responsible companies that will pull from the local sphere for the experience they provide. Be vigilant and it will be a win-win for you and the locals.
I have been down the volunteer abroad route. Unfortunately, they are often flawed, devised and driven by money and smart marketing. If you are considering a trip like so, do your research and ask questions – how is the money spent? Is there an actual need for me and my skill set in that locality? You could be replacing local people and/or not needed at all and so, guilt and wasted expense are inevitable.
Responsible travel starts at your own doorstep. As they say, explore your own back garden! Inherently, we seek adventure elsewhere. However, recognise your luck to live on this emerald isle – these fields, lanes, communities, towns, pubs, skies, hills, mountains (and the list goes on) are ours. If the weather is right and/or you are prepared, Irish home-grown festivals are a holiday in themselves. Look further than the popular names and there is an abundance of smaller community driven festivals, only a short journey from your home.
WHAT MOTIVATES RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL?
Meeting the locals, experiencing the culture, munching on the local cuisine, learning something new, giving your own hard earned cash to an equally hard earning local business and the list continues. It’s good for the head and heart to enjoy the simple things in life such as exchanging a smile and conversation with another person. Being conscious of the people and place and being conscientiousness are key factors in responsible travel. Whether you are walking along Rossmore Park’s Barn Lake or Thailand’s Ko Phi shoreline, respect and respond positively.
Barn Lake at Rossmore Park
Another thing to consider, especially in light of the recent rejuvenated fight for the homeless, is the amount of vacant holiday homes in contrast to the amount of homeless on our streets and waiting lists for housing throughout the country. Responsible travel is an all-encompassing term that can stir many varied discussions.
At the end of the day, remember, we are the sum of our behaviours. Actions speak louder than words. Go n-éirí an bothar leat! For more information, see http://www.reponsibletravel.com and http://www.ecotourism.ie.