Today we are super-excited to have Diana Edelman, author of DTravelsRound, co-founder of the Responsible Tourism and Travel Collective (RTTC), former full-time volunteer at the Save Elephant Foundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and all around ecotravel and responsible tourism expert guest post today on the Indie Travel Challenge. Diana gives us her advice on:
“After working in the responsible tourism industry for a few years, I am always conscious of my travels and how they are — or could be — more responsible. I’ve seen the first-hand effects of what traveling irresponsibly does to animals, as well as cultures, and know how imperative it is that myself, and others, try to become more responsible in our adventures.
Ecotourism is a vague term that encompasses a lot. By definition, it involves traveling to areas which are natural and minimizing the impact of those who visit. It affords travelers an opportunity to see nature, wildlife and more without causing harm. It is absolutely important to me. As places around the world become desecrated because of people visiting, species become extinct and importance is placed on “see it before it’s gone” is the new buzz term, it is incredibly important to me that preservation efforts are made.
There are many ways people can travel more responsibly. Little things like shopping and eating locally, staying at hotels which are owned by locals and employ locals, observing versus interacting with wildlife in the wild (and never supporting places which exploit them for humans, be it selfies, rides or petting exotic animals), donating versus “volunteering” at places like orphanages where oftentimes children aren’t orphans at all (not to mention the issues with volunteering without proper qualifications and the emotional impact short-term relationship can have on emotionally traumatized children, along with many orphanages being front of sex and slavery) all can make a big difference.
Operators know that responsible tourism is huge right now and many cash in on the phrase without actually being responsible or working towards conservation at all. Travelers need to know that key terms like “eco-friendly” or “sanctuary” can be misleading, and therefore ask questions to see if a business or operators claims are substantiated or are simply “greenwashing.” Do research online that extends beyond Trip Advisor or other travelers reviews to see if a business is truly responsible or just claiming it. There are many ways to do this, and the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective has a list which can help people in making decisions regarding different ways to travel more responsibly.”