What is responsible travel?
In recent years ‘Responsible Travel’ has become a very familiar term, but what is it? To put it simply, it is our responsibility to ensure we offer holidays that are sensitive to the environments and communities you visit, and it is your responsibility as a traveller to ensure you tread carefully, respecting local laws and customs and avoiding any negative impact on the local environment.
To us, Responsible Tourism is nothing new. Ever since we started in 1999, we have believed that it’s our responsibility to do all we can to protect the places to which we send clients and to ensure that as much as possible of the money spent filters through to local economies.
We and everyone we ask to provide services to you, take pride in offering responsible holidays with minimal impact on the environment, support for community development and ensuring good working conditions. We relay our RT policy to all of our suppliers and they in turn sign an agreement of best practice.
How you can get involved
Clients often ask us what they can do to ensure they travel responsibly. The following is best practice:
Before you go…
Learn something about the countries you plan to visit to find out about the culture, politics, geography, religion and local customs.
Try and remove unnecessary packaging from any products you are taking with you, and dispose of it at home first. Recycling has yet to really take off in Latin America so the less you leave the better!
Whilst on your travels …
In the market…
Buy local handicrafts and support local artisans. When bargaining, remember that a small saving for you could make a big difference for the seller. Don’t buy ancient artifacts or anything made with endangered animals or plants e.g. hardwoods, shells, exotic feathers, coral, furs or eggs.
Choose smaller local restaurants, bars and cafes where possible so your money benefits local people. Sample the local cuisine using local produce.
Out and about…
Remember to respect local traditions and culture. Ask permission before photographing indigenous people and events, particularly religious processions. Ask for an address and send photos to the people you photographed, many won’t have photos of their families.
Simple gifts for children, such as crayons, balloons, colouring books or even a mini football can bring a huge smile to a child’s face. Resist handing out sweets as dental care is, mostly, poor. Giving money to children on the street only encourages begging; instead consider donating to schools or local conservation or charitable organisations.
Speaking with people…
Why not try and learn some of the lingo? Speaking a few words of the local language, even if it is just ‘hola’ or ‘gracias’, will change the way people react to you. You’ll get a much warmer welcome and this in turn can enrich your experience and interaction with the local people.
Traditions and ways of life differ greatly across the cultures of Latin America. As a rule of thumb, people in lowland regions are more gregarious and relaxed than those who live a more austere life in the mountains, and many Latin Americans are modest and camera-shy.
Please try to be sensitive to local customs. The pace of life outside the main cities is slower than in Australia, and you may have to draw on your reserves of patience in some situations. There is still widespread poverty in many countries: you may like to consider taking clothes, shoes or toys with you that you might be happy to leave behind.
Minimise your environmental impact…
Stick to the paths and walkways whether you are in the jungle, on a mountain trek or in a Mayan ruin. They are there for your safety and also to preserve the local wildlife and help to avoid further erosion of the landscape.
In your hotel…
Clean water is a precious resource, so use it sparingly. Try and take quick showers rather than baths as this helps to save water. Advise your hotel that you don’t need towels or sheets laundered daily. This can save on water and energy. Conserve electricity by switching off lights, air-conditioning or heating when you leave your room.
Use environmentally friendly shampoos and detergents, particularly when you are outside big cities in ‘the wild’ and your shower water is going to end up in a river! Try to reuse and refill your drinking water bottles where possible. Many hotels have water ‘garafons’ filled with treated ‘agua potable’ that is perfectly safe to drink. If your hotel does not, you could leave a suggestion that they provide one.