As someone who advocates for ethical tourism, I am often asked what it takes to be an ethical traveller. It can sometimes be a very complicated issue, which is why I always suggest people do their research first. Look at websites in-depth, check out reviews, and if in doubt, post questions on travel forums such as Travelfish. And if you don’t have time to do the research? Then take note of these six suggestions on how to be an ethical traveller.
Support social enterprises
There are countless for-purpose businesses to support across the world that train people from marginalised backgrounds or support charities with their profits. Shop, dine and stay at social enterprises or ethical businesses so that the employees are able to stay in stable employment and break the cycle of poverty. It is a great way for you to be involved in the skill building of these people whilst also getting some benefit!
Don’t give or buy from street children
When you give to a child, they see the benefit then and there. An issue in Cambodia, for example, is that many people do not see the benefit of studying; they see the benefit of getting money immediately. So, when you give to a child, that child will put 2 + 2 together and see that if they are on the streets begging instead of in school, they will be able to support their families now; they won’t care about the future when they are not ‘young and cute’ anymore and have no education to back them up. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution – find reputable NGOs to support with your tourist dollar instead.
Buy locally-sourced products
Find out where your food and souvenirs are made, so you can ensure you are supporting the local economy. And should you choose to support an NGO with supplies they need, try your best to purchase those supplies in-country rather than bringing them from home, so you can lift up a small business at the same time.
Give poverty-tours a miss
This dark form of tourism, also known as slum tourism, dates to the 1800’s. Wealthy New Yorkers would travel to the Lower East Side to see how the lower class lived. Poverty tourism has exploded in recent years, with many tour companies encouraging people to participate in poverty tourism. When we go into the ‘slums’ or poor villages, we are going into people’s homes. We are taking photos of their day-to-day living and intruding in their lives. How would you feel if you were at home, hanging out the washing or taking a bath, and someone came and took photos of you? Violated, perhaps? Not good, I am sure.
Be careful with how you interact with animals
In 2013, an elephant was forced to have its husks sawn off after it killed a tourist who approached it in a restricted area in Ayutthaya, Thailand. In 2016, an elephant died from exhaustion after years of carrying tourists up a mountain in Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia. 100% of animal tourism venues in Bali fail animal welfare standards. These animals should be free, but they are forced to work so their owners can earn money from tourists. The best way you can interact with animals when traveling is from afar, observing them in their natural habitats. You can also support animal-free circuses such as Phare, the Cambodian Circus.
Pay attention to the culture
You don’t want to inadvertently offend the local people by not adhering to their local culture. Make sure you pack appropriate clothing for your destination, read up on cultural do’s and don’ts, and even learn some basic words so you can show respect to your host country. It will enhance your experience and ensure you are leaving a positive footprint.
This September I am leading a Purpose + Philanthropy Field Trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. This ethical, inspiring, socially responsible tour will see you form connections with local Khmers who have overcome adversity to move forward with their lives.
You will be immersed in the Cambodian culture and learn about the innovative approaches that NGOs and social enterprises are taking to overcome poverty and social issues. You will have the opportunity to see firsthand the impact that Human and Hope Association is making in the community, and you will join the local team for dinner, giving you the opportunity to share stories.
Our hope is to ignite our travellers’ passions and purpose! View our itinerary and get in touch to secure your place.