What can you do to travel responsibly?

Confused between the terms “Ecotourism”, “Sustainable Tourism”, and “Responsible Travel”? Here’s a simple explanation on the differences:

Ecotourism is a niche segment of tourism in natural areas.

Sustainable Tourism is “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.” It does not refer to a specific type of tourism, it is an aspiration for the impacts of all forms of tourism. All forms of tourism should be sustainable. The GSTC Criteria serve as the global standards for sustainability in travel and tourism.

Responsible Travel is a term used when referring to the behavior of individual travelers aspiring to act make choices according to sustainable tourism practices.

Learn more about the Difference Between Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism.

Responsible Travel: Choose Certified Sustainable Tourism Companies

Stay at accommodations and use the services of tour operators that are certified as sustainable.

“Certified to GSTC  Criteria” logo

Travelers can affect change by asking hotels and other travel providers to gain certification as the most effective means to provide strong evidence that their operations are sustainable. Choose sustainable travel companies.

Certification is a voluntary, third-party assessment, through an audit, of a tourism enterprise or destination for conformity to a standard. Certification is done by Certification Bodies throughout the world. GSTC through our partner ASI, Assurance Services International, provides accreditation to those that certify.

Accreditation means that a Certification Body (CB) awards certification according to processes that comply with international standards and good practices. Businesses certified by an Accredited CB can use the GSTC logo along with the CB’s mark.

Find Certified Sustainable Accommodations
Find Certified Sustainable Destinations

Learn how to be a responsible traveler

1) Read the short guide “The Responsible Tourist: How to find, book and get the most from your holiday” by Anna Spenceley & Andrew Rylance.

2) Read EXO Tips Booklet for responsible travelers in the following languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian

3) Take the “Travel Better Online Training” (30 minutes) to learn about planning your trip, ways to make a difference while traveling, and things you can do once you return home. By G Adventures and Sustainable Travel International (STI).

4) Read this short article with very useful infographics: Sustainable Travel: Make Sure Your Next Trip is a Green One! by Andrea Moore

5) More tips:

  • Find out as much as possible. Learn if your hotel or tour operator has been certified as sustainable. The more you know about your destination before arriving, the more the destination will come alive. Look into the destination’s history, culture, natural environment, customs, legends, advisory notices and more.
  • Learn a few words in the local language. Making an effort to speak the local language allows you to interact with the people who know the site best. People appreciate your efforts and your interest in learning. Simple words like “Hello,”“Please” and “Thank you” can go a long way.
  • Pack light. It is tempting to pack everything you think you might need, but remember to be smart about your necessities. If traveling to a developing country, the local laundry service is affordable and is appreciated income to local service providers.
  • Lodging choices. Look for hotels that have a written policy covering their environmental impact, employment and cultural policy. The best evidence that a hotel follows a broad range of sustainable practices is if they are certified sustainable by a Certifying Body that is GSTC-Accredited.
  • Explore transportation options. Remember that traveling affects the environment. Wherever possible, try to minimize your pollution and impact on the environment by looking to high-occupancy transportation and offsetting your carbon emissions.
  • Engage in local culture. The saying, “While in Rome do as the Romans” still applies today. Your trip provides a unique opportunity to explore a new culture and to see the world through a different perspective. Remember that eating local foods, shopping in local markets, and attending local festivals are all part of experiencing the culture.
  • Buy local products and services. Choosing to support locally owned businesses, community tour operators, and artisans means that you’ll have a one-of-a-kind experience and your money will go directly to the community. Before purchasing goods, ask about their origin. Avoid buying products made from threatened natural resources and report poaching and other illegal activities to the local authorities.
  • Refrain from aggressive bargaining. It’s often difficult to know your limits in bargaining so if you’re not sure, ask your local hotel for tips. Remember that the purchases you make directly affect vendors’ livelihoods, so decide if you really need to hang onto that extra dollar or if it could impact the vendor more.
  • Hire local guides. Enrich your experience by choosing local guides who are knowledgeable about the destination. Ask local tour operators and hotels for good recommendations.
  • Tread lightly. Destinations are exceptional due to their natural or cultural splendor. Do your part to keep them that way by following designated trails, respecting caretakers, and not removing archaeological or biological treasures from sites.
  • Respect the natural environment. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Even though you are just visiting and not paying the utility bill, disposing of your garbage properly and minimizing your consumption of water and energy will benefit the overall destination.
  • Reduce consumption of intensive carbon-emission meat products, namely lamb and beef.
  • Distribute your responsible travel tips. In addition to telling family and friends about the wonderful memories you made, also consider sharing tips on how they too can positively impact the World while having an amazing journey.
  • Share your photos. Pictures can say a thousand words.
  • Explore more. Traveling is just the start of learning. Once you return home continue exploring and being involved with the issues or region that captured your attention. Build upon your knowledge and also learn about another fascinating place.
  • Give back. Traveling often opens your eyes and heart to something new.