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  • Anna Fowler

What is Sustainable & Responsible Tourism? Part 3: Culturally-Respectful Travel

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

This is part 3 in a multi-part series. To start with part 1, click here.

We talk a lot about sustainable travel here at GlobeSage but what exactly does that mean and what does it look like to become a more sustainable traveler? Actually, we like the terms responsible travel and thoughtful travel because they feel more comprehensive and capture our heart for the way we want to love and care for those we encounter in addition to lessening our impact on the globe. For us, when we talk about sustainable or responsible travel, we are using this as an umbrella term that focuses on tourism that is:

  • Environmentally-conscious

  • Culturally-respectful

  • Locally-beneficial

In this series, we are exploring each element of responsible, sustainable tourism and how they contribute to more engaging travel experiences.

Culturally-Respectful Travel

The World Tourism Organization broadly defines cultural tourism as, “the movement of people who satisfy the human need for diversity, tending to raise the cultural level of the individual and giving rise to new knowledge, experience, and encounters.” Sounds pretty good right? Many of us have taken part in cultural tourism without even knowing we could label it as such.

What it really comes down to is whether or not a person traveling has an experience that immerses them, in some capacity, with a culture different than their own. This can look like trying foods native to the country, visiting a local in their home, exploring a natural wonder, touring the architecture, or even participating in a local festival celebrating a national holiday or tradition - anything that allows for an experience that is considered normal for the culture we’re visiting but different from our own.

We actually don’t think there is anything wrong with staying within the four corners of a resort for vacation if that is what you enjoy. Quite honestly, we probably all need that kind of getaway after “the year that shall not be named!” But we’d also like to encourage all of us to consider the cultural explorations we might do during a future trip. Sometimes being a cultural traveler just begins with planning an hour or two outside of the main streets or top tourist attractions. Something as simple as hopping off the beaten path to find a local restaurant with authentic cuisine can begin our process of traveling more like an explorer and less like a tourist. As we do, we will find that cultural tourism requires very little from us.

What if we took it a step further? When engaging with a new culture, we could humble ourselves and let go of any preconceived ideas we may have about what life is supposed to look like and how humans are supposed to live. If we can do this, we can go from being a cultural tourist to being culturally respectful. We can honor the people groups we visit and learn from them. There is so much to be gained from the world around us. The innovations and quality of life that other people enjoy can teach us so much. It is our belief that if we can bring a little bit of a new culture home with us from each trip, we will influence our own communities to become more open to listening and learning from one another. Sounds like just what the doctor ordered!

What lessons, inspiration, and traditions are waiting for us just outside the borders of the US? We can’t wait to find out!

Do you have a story of a cultural encounter in another country? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Find out if you already practice sustainable, responsible tourism by taking our fun, 3-minute quiz HERE.

Part 1: What is Sustainable & Responsible Tourism?

Part 2: What is Sustainable & Responsible Tourism? Part 2 - Environmentally-Conscious Travel

Part 4: What is Sustainable & Responsible Tourism? Part 4 - Locally-Beneficial Travel

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