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Responsible tourism

 Liceulice - Serbia 10 October 2019

The rise and rise of ‘responsible tourism’ shows the desire amongst travelers of all ages to reduce their impact on the local environment. Why is it important? Does it mean that in order to have a guilt free holiday we must sleep in a mud hut, eat quinoa, wear Hessian clothing and never mention the fact that we drive everywhere at home to our hosts? Lilana Babi investigates from the Balkans about the explosion in this form of travel. (1203 Words) - By Milana Babić


Liceulice_namerno odgovoran turista 1

Photo courtesy of Milana Babić/Liceulice

Liceulice_namerno odgovoran turista 2

Photo courtesy of Milana Babić/Liceulice

Eco-tourism and responsible tourism has become increasingly popular since its advent in the early 1980's. It is defined as a form of "contemplative" trip to destinations that are characterized by fragile ecosystems and, often, legally protected areas and takes into account preservation and environmental protection of that ecosystem as well as the welfare of the local community.

The aim of this, still under-developed, tourism is the education of travelers and also fundraising for the protection of the local eco systems, along with an attempt to invest a share of assets in the development and political strengthening of the local communities. The main attractions are nature -especially flora and fauna- and the cultural inheritance of the local communities.

Responsible ecotourism also involves special programs, which mitigates the negative impact that mass tourism can have on both the local landscape and the local culture. Therefore, in addition to taking care of cultural and ecological factors while staying at some place, ecotourism also promotes recycling, energetic efficiency, responsible use of resources (water, electric power) as well as many other things that we do not always take into consideration when we prepare for travelling.

These days the number of associations, organisations and agencies that promote this kind of travelling is increasing.  One of the oldest and the most successful is the International Association of Ecotourism (TIES), the first non-profit society committed to the promotion of ecotourism and sustainable development. Founded in 1989 in Florida TIES largely contributed to the promotion of responsible travelling by issuing guidance and information for travelers planning a trip and by the creation of the program "ecoDestinations" which aims to connect and inform eco-tourists across the whole planet. Additionally TIES participated in the World Summit of Ecotourism, held in Quebec in 2003, organised conferences in Sweden, Kenya, Peru and India as well as promoting responsible tourism to the countries affected by the 2005 tsunami.

The TIES states that every time you travel with a purpose, it can be a responsible trip. When choosing a destination, tourist operators and accommodation providers who make a significant effort not to endanger the local eco-system, reduce the impact of their business and support the local culture are to be given every advantage with potential customers.  Thus, anyone can be a responsible traveller- whether you love to enjoy nature or appreciate luxury, or both.  Travelers who like walking in rain forests and those who want to explore big cities, also those who do not want to go far away from their town as well as those who prefer going to exotic places at the other end of the planet are all able to travel in a responsible manner without losing the core experience they are seeking.

Myth busting ecotourism

Myth: Responsible tourism means an uncomfortable trip

Truth: Many owners of bungalows, hotels and lodging-houses take care about quality of services they offer. Along with good accommodation they also offer a local culture on a tray. Search the Internet before you go somewhere- there are good chances that you will find a destination, which is not so noticeable and expensive, but can offer comfort and luxury.

Myth: Responsible tourism is expensive.

Truth: In ecotourism as well as tradition tourism there are operators which prices, depend on quality and luxury of services, vary from very reasonable to high. There will certainly be something for you within your budget that does not compromise on the experience.

Myth: Responsible tourism is too complicated.

Truth: The Internet has made every aspect of travel planning easier. From looking for the ideal destination to transport and accommodation, the Internet has simplified travel. Also when you reach your chosen destination there are a few steps which will reduce the negative impact of your trip: buy local products, stay at private accommodation or hotels which run their business responsibly, use public transport and respect local cultures when taking photos, shopping, visiting sacred places. Hiring local tourist guides can help.

Myth:  Responsible tourism always means that we have to go somewhere out-of-the-way and 'rustic'; I didn't come on holiday to get muddy

Truth: Many people, when they hear the word  "ecotourism" they think of mud huts, backwards villages and toilets that don't flush. You do not have to go to Brazil for ecotour. on the website: you can find useful information and recommendations (books, guides, interesting places, local activities and monuments, cheap lodging) for responsible travelling in Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Croatia and many other European countries. Unfortunately, Serbia is not on this list yet but hopes it will be changed soon.

Some useful advice:

1. Travel by plane only when it is necessary

Air transport is one of the fastest growing travel sectors and by far the most environmentally damaging way to travel per person, per mile. Plan a trip so that you use airplane rarely. If it is possible, try to stay longer at one place, instead of changing location during your holiday.

2. Don't pack as you "are going to move out"

Try to take only necessary stuff. Keep in mind that your extra luggage costs more to move. Low cost airlines have punitive costs for 'over-weight' bags. The lighter your luggage, the lower the environmental impact. Also if your luggage is easier, your trip is easier! Most people come home with clothes they never used still in folded in their suitcase.

3. Choose accommodation responsibly

While choosing accommodation give priority to those which pay attention to sustainable business models. Look for online information on environmental initiatives, local ecological strategies and agendas for saving energy for the company that interests you. Check if the hotel or operator is authorized to offer ecotourism and is it a member of eco-touristic associations.

4. Turn off all appliances

Before you leave home, make sure if all appliances are turned off and water valves screwed. Not only do you avoid damage in the case of unexpected events during your holiday, but also you'll save on your bills, since the appliances consume electricity even on "standby" mode. Televisions use about 3/5ths of their power on standby.

5. Be a responsible consumer in the hotel

When you leave your hotel room, check if all lights and appliances are turned off. Use water responsibly - taps do not have to be opened all the time while shaving or brushing teeth, and also consider the water usage in areas of water poverty. A long shower may feel nice in a hot dry country but there may be a hidden cost to the local community. Make sure that the hotel offers a responsible use of bed linen and towels - if there is no need to change them every day, leave a message that you do not need new towels.

6. Use alternative modes of transport

The more public transport that you use (subway, buses, and trams) the more environmentally friendly your holiday will be, and you will have the opportunity to learn more about the local culture.

7. Eat local products

Reduce the purchase and use of imported goods and focus on local products. Shop at local markets and shops; eat at local restaurants - and the freshness of ingredients and the responsibility of the stay are to be guaranteed.

Translated by Marijana Rakić

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