With tourism one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet, responsible travel is becoming increasingly important for tour operators around the world.
At Explore, we are strong advocates for responsible tourism, seeking to ensure that our impact on the communities of the countries we visit is minimal. From offsetting the carbon emissions of flights, to working with local communities towards conservation and preservation of each destination, there are many ways to become a more responsible traveller with Explore.
Discover everything you ever wanted to know about responsible travel with our guide below, and learn how you can have a sustainable travel experience while discovering the world with Explore.
What is Responsible Travel?
Responsible travel has been defined as taking responsibility for your impact on the world when travelling, including being socially, economically and culturally conscious when in your trip destination. As a tour operator, Explore works to ensure that we are responsible at every stage of your trip, from arranging for our travellers stay in locally-run hotels, to reducing our own paper trail at Explore HQ.
Why is Responsible Travel Important?
Responsible travel is becoming more important as the tourism industry continues to grow. Global warming and pollution are among the biggest concerns for our planet, and the environmental impact of tourism in terms of CO2 emissions, waste, energy consumption, nature conservation and cultural preservation, are all important factors that we must consider when travelling.
We feel it is both the responsibility of Explore, and those travelling with us, to ensure that we are more mindful of these factors when visiting a country. Whether we're offsetting the CO2 emissions use to travel to – and around – a destination, or paying our local Explore Leaders a fair wage, it all contributes to creating a more sustainable industry that doesn't negatively impact our destinations and those who live there.
While sustainable travel is a challenge, we approach this realistically, so that we can become more responsible through a number of thoughts, actions and initiatives outlined below.
Aside from all the considerations of booking your trip, being mindful of what you pack is likely to be the first step you'll take in becoming a more responsible traveller. Keeping the weight of your luggage to a minimum not only helps reduce carbon emissions, but can also help to reduce the amount of waste you'll leave behind.
Disposable objects like plastic water bottles, or used toiletries, are often not recycled overseas, meaning that anything you leave behind could clog up landfills or pollute water systems. Opt for 'green' products, many of which you can find online, including eco-friendly soaps, reusable bottles and durable bags that you can bring home with you.
Become Culturally Aware
A big part of working towards being a responsible traveller is becoming more culturally aware when visiting a new place. Why not learn some helpful words and phrases so that you can speak to the communities you’ll visit in their own language? It's also recommended that you consider how to adhere to local dress codes when heading outdoors, particularly to religious or political sites. Speak to one of our Adventure Travel Experts before you depart, who can provide you with the guidance you need to be a conscious traveller.
The key to getting to know any destination and being sensitive to local communities is by respecting the cultures and customs. The families who host many of our homestays love nothing more than sharing stories, folklore and history about the places that they call home, while our Explore Leaders will be able to provide practical advice where needed to make your experiences safer, more respectful and enjoyable. From presenting your hosts with a gift upon arrival, to trying out new foods or taking part in traditional festivals, embracing and understanding the culture is by far the easiest way to see the world responsibly.
Thinking Locally When Travelling
Rather than splurging on a luxury hotel, the Explore team consider the impact this will have on the local economy and instead look towards smaller, locally-run businesses wherever possible. By investing in local accommodation or opting for one of our Explore homestays, you'll be putting money back into the pockets of those who live and work there, in turn helping their community to grow.
While some people may opt for familiarity and convenience at large-scale hotels, an authentic hotel or homestay will help to immerse you in regional culture, which is truly the best way to see any country. It doesn't mean that you have to miss out on exclusivity or luxury either; from sleeping under the stars to enjoying delicious home-cooked regional dishes, you'll still find a valuable experience that's both comfortable and enjoyable.
You should also 'think locally' when eating out or buying gifts. Destinations such as Morocco, India and Peru have wonderful markets where you can pick up hand-crafted clothing, trinkets and ornaments, while eating at a street food restaurant in Thailand, or learning how to make ceviche in Mexico will provide you with an authentic taste of your destination, rather than putting money into international businesses that may not contribute as much to the local economy.
Eco-Travel and Responsible Tourism
One of the first things people assume that you have to forego when travelling responsibly is air travel. While flying does contribute to a significant percentage of carbon emissions, it is extremely difficult to discover the world without it. The key to responsible air travel lies in careful planning. Explore choose the most efficient routes for our Explore trips where possible, and all flights are offset through our Cool Earth carbon offsetting initiative.
All of our Explore trips aim to minimise unnecessary air travel and reduce carbon emissions by providing alternative 'green' travel options, such as cycle routes, hikes, energy-efficient tour buses and boat trips that will get you safely from A to B, without racking up unnecessary CO2 emissions.
Protection and Conservation
Conservation is one of the many ways that countries around the world are taking action to offset the impact of industries like tourism on their natural landscapes, wildlife and economy. Many of the most eco-friendly places on Earth have multiple initiatives in place to help protect environmental factors like local wildlife, as well as rectify the damage of deforestation, and to 'clean up' their oceans, coastlines and countryside. The best part is that tourists can get involved too!
From tree planting projects in Belize and helping to maintain the Andos Trail, to cleaning beaches in the Maldives or learning about the fantastic initiatives to save marine life in Tanzania and Zanzibar, Explore present a range of opportunities to get involved in preserving nature and local culture in some of our most treasured tour destinations. These initiatives run all year round, and the Explore team get directly involved by contributing to charities and projects, such as building working toilets and raising money for schools and hospitals across the globe.