I was invited onto Capetalk radio to join Bianca Reznikov on their travel feature speaking about the ‘Value of ethical travel’ after they’d read an article I’d contributed to.
For me, ethical travel is about a mindset, a philosophy, a way of treading gently on the world as you select your destinations, start the planning and spend time in them. Some further thought here.
How I define ethical tourism?
To me, ethical tourism refers to a conscious style of travel and an awareness of our impact as we explore the world. A mindfulness about the various destinations that we visit, and a commitment to treat the surrounding environment and community with respect. Linking into this is the anti-plastic movement, concerns about over tourism, the ever more natural choice of sustainable travel with local involvement and the important need to establish animal rights in tourism. It is selflessness, an acknowledgement of the privilege of travel and that we are guests, wherever we may find ourselves.
Travellers are seeking experiences that have meaning and create memories, from cultural and heritage experiences that speak of the traditions and history of a place to adventure activities or travel with a purpose where tourists can contribute to a greater cause or even get involved in local conservation efforts. In South Africa in particular, ethical and responsible tourism as well as fair trade, play a huge role in planning. With a history of exploitation of both communities and wildlife, doing the right thing is no longer a consideration, it is fundamental.
It has become essential for tour companies to curate experiences and itineraries that subscribe to the ethos of responsible tourism, booking accommodation establishments that adhere to sustainable practices, look after their staff and consider the environment. Tourists now want to meet locals, live like locals and feel like they are contributing to the right economy. Activities like lion cub petting and elephant riding should be omitted and recognised as wrong, and meals should be enjoyed at small establishments, where the ingredients are locally sourced. Mostly though, where good people offering authentic quality experiences, are supported.
Lodges such as Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Samara Private Game Reserve and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park subscribe to excellent ecotourism practices, while organisations such as UTHANDO, SANCCOB and Green Girls in Africa, speak to community ethics and animal rights.
Local and international travellers with an ethical stance are basing their travel destination choices on everything from human rights and equality, to improve working conditions and environmental issues. Travellers don’t want to be seen to be supporting controversial countries and feel that social issues are of real importance when choosing where to go. Safety, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation are also of great importance to explorers.
Seeking out lesser-known, eco-friendly destinations, and looking at going out of season when the rates are better, and they won’t be adding to the impact of over-tourism on popular destinations. The prediction is that ethical travellers will look for sustainable experiences in their destination choices in the future, while accommodation providers will look to reduce their plastic usage and increase their sustainable credentials. Many travellers are even telling their holiday company that they would be willing to spend time on activities that offset the impact of their stay, with many willing to do beach cleanups while there.
If you’re turning a blind eye to exploited communities, still leave the air-conditioner on when you leave the room, aren’t carrying a reusable water bottle and think interaction with wild animals is acceptable, you’re not an ethical or conscious traveller.