As the tourism industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, its multifaceted relationship with the environment and host communities is becoming increasingly evident.
Although consumer awareness is rising, there is a lack of understanding of what sustainable tourism means. Below a few tips:
Find out as much as possible. The more you know about a World Heritage site before arriving, the more the site will come alive. Look into the site's history, culture, natural environment, customs, legends, advisory notices and more. UNESCO's World Heritage Centre is a great starting point.
Learn a few words in the local language. Making an effort to speak the local language allows you to interact with the people who know the site best. People appreciate your efforts and your interest in learning. Simple words like "Hello,""Please" and "Thank you" can go a long way.
Pack light. It is tempting to pack everything you think you might need, but remember to be smart about your necessities. Packaging items like the paper box to your film or the plastic wrapping of your new toothbrush simply consume space in your bag and can create excess trash for the World Heritage site.
Lodging choices. Look for hotels that have a written policy covering their environmental impact, employment and cultural policy.
Explore transportation options. Remember that traveling affects the environment. Wherever possible, try to minimize your pollution and impact on the environment by looking to alternative transportation and off-setting your carbon emissions.
Engage in local culture. The saying, "While in Rome do as the Romans" still applies today. Your trip provides a unique opportunity to explore a new culture and to see the world through a different perspective. Remember that eating local foods, shopping in local markets, and attending local festivals are all part of experiencing the culture.
Buy local products and services. Choosing to support locally owned businesses, community tour operators, and artisans means that you'll have a one-of-a-kind experience and your money will go directly to the community. Before purchasing goods, ask about their origin. Avoid buying products made from threatened natural resources and report poaching and other illegal activities to the local authorities.
Refrain from aggressive bargaining. It's often difficult to know your limits in bargaining so if you're not sure, ask your local hotel for tips. Remember that the purchases you make directly affect vendors' livelihoods, so decide if you really need to hang onto that extra dollar or if it could impact the vendor more.
Hire local guides. Enrich your experience by choosing local guides who are knowledgeable about the destination. Ask local tour operators and hotels for good recommendations.
Tread lightly. Destinations are exceptional due to their natural or cultural splendor. Do your part to keep them that way by following designated trails, respecting caretakers, and not removing archaeological or biological treasures from sites.
Respect the natural environment. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Even though you are just visiting and not paying the utility bill, disposing of your garbage properly and minimizing your consumption of water and energy will benefit the overall destination.
Distribute your responsible travel tips. In addition to telling family and friends about the wonderful memories you made, also consider sharing tips on how they too can positively impact the World while having an amazing journey.
Share your photos. Pictures can say a thousand words.
Explore more. Traveling is just the start of learning. Once you return home continue exploring and being involved with the issues or region that captured your attention. Build upon your knowledge and also learn about another fascinating place.
Give back. Traveling often opens your eyes and heart to something new. You can continue to preserve our inspirational World Heritage sites for generations to come by making a donation to a local charity.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) serves as the international body for fostering increased knowledge and understanding of sustainable tourism practices, promoting the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles and building demand for sustainable travel.
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