The conscious attitude, actions, participation
and interactions on the part of the individual traveler directly
affect the outcome for all involved. As a thoughtful and responsible
traveler there are several things you can do before, during and
after your journey to ensure the experience is in line with the
values of "ecotourism" and minimize your impact on the
host country. It is far easier to simply go on vacation as an uninformed
tourist but making the choice to be an informed traveler can have
far reaching impacts on the world around us. The more you put into
your trip the more you'll get out of it. The following is a code
of conduct for responsible travelers.
1) Prepare for your trip
Educate yourself about your destination. Be on
the lookout for news and current events about the area. Learn about
local history, customs and culture as well as vital ecosystems.
Learn at least the basics of the local language. A simple hello,
please or thank you goes a long way. Approach travel with the desire
to learn rather than just observe.
2) Respect local traditions and etiquette
Wear clothing that is accepted by the local culture.
Be aware of people's sensitivity to being photographed; always ask
first. Observe local customs. Be perceptive of your own cultural
values and how they affect your judgment of others. Remember that
you are the visitor. There are many different concepts of time,
personal space, communication etc. which are not wrong or inferior,
just different. Act as an example for other travelers who are less
informed than you.
Avoid ostentatious display of wealth
What may not seem a display of wealth to you may
be considered extravagant by another culture. For example, a camera
hanging around your neck or something as simple as a wristwatch
or wedding band. Tuck these items away when visiting rural communities.
Leave jewelry and other unnecessary valuables at home. They only
create barriers and inhibit genuine interactions. Don't hand out
sweets and loose change, this only serves to corrupt and create
a begging mentality where none existed before.
4) Be flexible in your expectations
Approach your adventure with an open mind and you
won't be disappointed. Sometimes plans change and an opportunity
for more in-depth learning or a unique cultural experience presents
itself. Adapt yourself to the situation rather than trying to adapt
the situation to you.
5) Conserve resources
Often times the resources in an area visited by
tourists are under a great deal of pressure already. Be aware of
the resources that are being used because of your visit. This includes
your personal consumption of items like water and wood for building
fires or specialty foods that had to be transported from afar. Don't
allow your guide to hunt endangered or threatened species or harvest
rare plants for your consumption. A large luxury hotel in the middle
of nowhere takes far more resources to build and maintain than does
a small family run inn.
6) Practice environmental minimum impact
Follow the International Leave No Trace Rules.
Pack out everything that you bring in including toilet paper (if
there is no toilet) or plastic water bottles (use purification tablets
or a filter). Remove litter that others left behind. Do not remove
any objects, plants or animal products from nature. Be aware of
local endangered or threatened species so as not to purchase souvenirs
made from their skin, feathers etc. Not only is this impactful on
the environment but it is illegal.
7) Support local economies
How will your visit directly benefit the local
economy or entire community? This is an integral part of true ecotourism.
Use local transportation, guides, inns, restaurants and markets.
This helps create a buffer zone for the environment surrounding
protected natural areas by giving locals an economic alternative
to potentially destructive practices. Community based ecotourism
spreads the wealth and workload.
8) Bridging cultural gaps
Take the opportunity to be a cultural ambassador.
Much of the world's image of western tourists is based on the unrealities
of television and magazines. Look for situations for cultural exchange
whereby learning about each other's lives is mutual. Getting to
know the person sitting next to you on a local bus or the person
cooking your food takes some effort but is often a rewarding experience.
9) Continued ecotourism
Ecotourism doesn't need to end with your
flight home. Follow through on your commitment to conservation in
your everyday life. Share your experiences with others to foster
a greater understanding of our world. You will have seen and learned
much from your journey. While it is still fresh in your heart and
mind take action using the various agencies, grassroots organizations
and resources available to you.