Travel and tourism is the largest, most diverse global industry. Employing 1 in 10 people on the planet, the industry touches an incredible number of environments, lives, and communities in all corners of the globe.
One of the most remarkable aspects of travel is that each new adventure represents an opportunity for individuals to help these people and places. With over 1 billion people traveling every year, that is 1 billion opportunities to make a positive difference.
Unfortunately, travel and tourism doesn’t always leave behind a positive impact. During your travels, you’ve likely witnessed, in one way or another, how tourism can cause damage to ecosystems and communities. These experiences can leave us feeling helpless and wondering what we can do. How can YOU as a traveler take responsibility to ensure that you’re positively impacting the destinations you visit?
Universal Tips to Travel Better
We know that travelers want to make a difference, but we also realize that it can sometimes be difficult to know what the best travel choices are. To get you started on your journey to more meaningful and responsible travel, we’ve compiled a list of 10 universal sustainable travel tips. We hope these simple tips enrich your travel experiences and inspire you to make a positive impact on the people you meet and protect the places you visit.
- Consider Your Route. Visit popular places at off-peak times and travel popular itineraries in reverse order. Seek unique experiences at lesser known attractions.
- Mind Your Resources. Help conserve our planet’s natural resources by following the principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle during your travels and when you return home. Avoid disposable plastic products and bring along a reusable water bottle and purifier to filter your own water. Support tour operators and service providers that incorporate sustainable tourism practices in their operations.
- Respect Local Cultures. Be aware that you will likely encounter cultural differences in many of the destinations you visit. To prevent any embarrassing or awkward situations, learn some basic phrases in the local language, and research local customs, cultural sensitivities, and environmental issues before you arrive.
- Be Prepared, Stay Safe. Learn about local weather conditions, business hours, legal matters, and dangers and annoyances before venturing out. Consider hiring a local guide.
- Honor Protected Areas. Follow advisories and regulations when visiting protected areas, and respect the rights of private landowners. Remember the usage fees you pay support local management programs and conservation efforts necessary to protect and maintain these areas.
- Keep Wildlife Wild. Maintain a respectful distance, use binoculars and telephoto lenses, and refrain from feeding wild animals. Participate in activities that protect wildlife and their habitat and avoid activities that may jeopardize animal welfare. Learn more about Animal Welfare Guidelines from ABTA.
- Shop Local. Support the true regional character you’ve come to see by consciously spending your time and money at local businesses with local employees, who offer locally produced food and products, handicrafts, and art. Your dollars will benefit the region and also help communities preserve traditions and protect natural resources.
- Travel green. Make smarter transportation decisions that help to reduce your carbon footprint. Approximately five percent of global carbon emissions are caused by tourism, of which the large majority are due to air travel. When possible, take a bus or train to your destination, or consider exploring your own backyard! If you must travel by plane, choose the most direct route, pack light and purchase carbon offsets.
- Give Back. Enhance the value and meaning of your visit by volunteering your time or making a financial contribution to a local cause. Find out if there is a travel philanthropy fund for the destination or identify other organizations that support environmental stewardship and community well-being and that generate tangible results. There are also a number of nonprofits, such as Sustainable Travel International, that help travelers, tourism businesses and destinations to become more sustainable.
- Leave No Trace. Prevent harm to nature and wildlife by respecting the environments you visit. Follow all principles of Leave No Trace—from preparation to preservation. Minimize your impact for the good of everyone.
Continue your journey to more sustainable travel
While these tips are definitely a good start to becoming a more socially conscious and environmentally friendly traveler, there’s still much more that you can do to up your sustainability! Luckily, Sustainable Travel International just made this a lot easier, with the launch of the Travel Better Club – an online community and resource hub for travelers just like YOU who want to learn how the choices you make can more positively impact the people and places you visit.
By joining the club, you’ll gain access to ongoing sustainable travel resources and tips, a 30-minute online Travel Better certificate course, and an online community to share your experiences with other members! As an extra bonus, you’ll also receive exclusive travel benefits such as discounts on tours, hotels, gear, and more!
To join the Travel Better Club for FREE, visit travelbetterclub.org and enter “iTravelBetter” as the coupon code.
Sustainable Travel International is a non-profit organization working to improve the lives of people around the world and the environments they rely upon. By leveraging the power of travel and tourism and providing business and government leaders with the guidance, policies and solutions they need, we aim to ensure that the communities they’re engaged in thrive and their environments are healthy for future generations.