As founders of the Original Trails, we have worked on the ground as tour leaders and managers in local offices for other companies. Our intention is not to use Ethical Travel or Travel Right simply as a marketing tool to sell trips, but rather to guide travellers in way that can preserve the very thing we all love.
Defining “Responsible Tourism” is a topic of much debate these days and the number of definitions matches the multitude of opinions of how it came to be. The idea here is not to delve into the complexities of definition, but to provide an explanation of why it started and more importantly, where it is going.
The concept of “Responsible Travel” is a relatively new term in the travel and tourism industry, which has evolved from an idea developed some 30 years ago called “Eco- Tourism”. Eco-Tourism came about from a need to find a more ecological way to manage tourist demands due to the concerns arising from the exploitation and damage to environments by over-development of tourist areas through mass tourism. “Eco” practices and ideas were developed to provide alternative ways to travel that worked in harmony with nature and the local environment and to use resources, both local and other in a respectful and responsible manner.
The concept and definition of “Eco-Tourism” was built upon and expanded as it was realised that there were many different ways in which tourism could develop. This gave birth to “sustainable” and later, “responsible” travel; the idea that certain tourism practices would, not only have a low cultural and environmental impact, but actually benefit local economies at the same time.
Today, the concept of responsible tourism is still evolving as new ideas are being developed in the travel industry. There are now many more definitions under responsible tourism that focus on specific levels of local and community development such as “community-based tourism”, “voluntourism”, “philanthropic”and “geotourism”.
To us, our philosophy of Ethical Travel it is to travel in such a way that adheres to a set of principles with regard to culture, environment and economy. Our tours combine the principles of responsible tourism with a focus on community-based tourism, as we believe this is one of the most effective ways that tourism can benefit people in the countries we are visiting. Where we have a found legit organizations, we make direct contributions that are transparent to you as the travel, like building wells in Cambodian villages through Habitat for Humanity or giving directly to local people with home-stays in Panauti, Nepal.
Original Trails Responsible Travel Guidelines
Travelling to cultural destinations that are different from our own demands an open mind. Try not to make generalizations or judge people based on their situation or location, but rather embrace and absorb the experience and reflect on the differences.
Treating everyone as you would want to be treated, with respect and dignity. Respect of traditional beliefs, religion and local customs, particularly when taking photos and wearing appropriate clothing.
Having a genuine interest, curiosity and desire to learn about the country you are travelling to. Prior to leaving home, sensitize yourself to local customs, beliefs and learn a bit of the local language. Try to think of yourself as a cultural ambassador of your country.
Interacting with the locals is the best way to learn about a country and its culture! Observe and engage; ask questions and listen. Try to forge a bond of mutual cultural understanding. Participate in activities that promote local cultural heritage and history.
Supporting the economy by buying products from local stores and markets that have come directly from the source. Using services from locally owned businesses and hotels that employ local people generates money within a community. Paying a fair price, not the lowest, promotes self-sustainability of the local people.
Being mindful of waste by opting for recyclable methods and materials where possible. Avoid unnecessarily purchasing plastic packaging and bags. Do not leave garbage in inappropriate places.
Avoiding local activities that exploit the environment in a damaging way. Refrain from buying souvenirs made from protected or endangered local ecology, nor remove anything of ecologic significance and be respectful when observing local wild-life.
Being aware of the local environment you are in. Use energy and water resources accordingly and responsibly.