What is Sustainable & Responsible Tourism? Part 4: Locally-Beneficial Travel
Updated: Jul 12
This is part 4 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?
We like to use the terms responsible travel and thoughtful travel because they 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, focusing on tourism that is:
In this series, we explore each element of responsible, sustainable tourism and how they contribute to more engaging travel experiences.
What are some things that you take into consideration when you are planning a trip? Of course, there are the necessities like accommodations, transportation, perhaps booking a guide, depending on what you might like to experience. You may even try and schedule a tour or two so that you are making the most of your time away. Maybe you’re a foodie, and you like to take a look at the restaurants around town ahead of time to plan out a meal tour or a fantastic foodie experience!
There’s certainly a lot to consider for any style of trip you might embark on, business or pleasure. One thing, in particular, we have been increasingly considering goes back to being a responsible traveler. How can we travel in a way that supports the local economy? We call this, locally-beneficial travel.
How much can our travel affect the lifestyle of the locals and their economy?
Quite a lot! Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, and its effect on local communities goes deeper than we may think. Tourism creates numerous jobs, and in a perfect world, it would bring an incredible amount of revenue to the locals. Unfortunately, it has been very easy for large corporations to view popular locations as opportunities to fill their pockets. It’s not uncommon to travel to another country and see all of the same restaurants and hotels you might find in your backyard. While it can be the more familiar option to stay in these places or eat at these establishments, it’s important to keep something in mind, “Where is your money going?”
What’s easy and familiar to us may be taking money away from the local businesses and economy. It may take some getting outside of our comfort zones, but let’s take a moment to think of different ways we can be locally-beneficial travelers.
First, as we mentioned before, booking a room at a large chain establishment puts money back into the hands of foreign corporations that tend to have a huge chunk of the tourism industry. One way to avoid funding the bigger guys and start supporting the locals would be to find a locally owned and operated hotel. Not only does this put money into a local business, but chances are you will have an experience that is a much more accurate representation of the native culture. Imagine the authentic cuisine that these hotels may offer or even the recommendations you may get from the local staff! We know that it can be challenging to branch out to what is unfamiliar and different in some circumstances. Perhaps you are traveling multi-generationally, and your priority needs to be comfort and familiarity for the sake of those in your group. An excellent way to ensure you are still supporting the locals is to reach out to a chain hotel and inquire about their hiring policies. Do they hire local employees? Are they putting money back into the community? If so, how? Based on their answers, you can navigate which companies you want to support. Remember, you can still play an important role in supporting local businesses even while accommodating the needs of your whole party!
Another way to become a locally-beneficial traveler would be to seek out a local tour guide rather than a tour guide from your own country. Often, tour groups or resorts will hire Americans or native English-speaking people to carry out the tours because they are easier for American tourists to understand. While this sounds like a positive thing, the problem is that in doing this, they have eliminated a potential job opportunity for someone from the very country you are visiting! The alternative would be to book a tour with a company that hires locals or a locally owned company that hires their community members as tour guides. Though you may receive your tour info from someone with a native accent, you would be giving your financial support to a business that cares and invests in the local economy and community. As an extra perk, you will be enjoying the personal memories, stories, and histories about specific places from someone who didn’t just memorize it but had it passed down through the generations. There are some things you just can’t fake, and pride in your culture or past is undoubtedly one of them!
Finally, committing to trying local restaurants is a big way to benefit the local economy and support small businesses. Take an opportunity, if you can, to get a recommendation from someone who lives in the community, and go out for a meal somewhere you may not have even found on your own. The food is sure to surpass your expectations, and you would be supporting a business established and run by community members. Maybe along the way, you can pick up a souvenir made by a local craftsman or artist as just one more way to be a locally-beneficial traveler!
Traveling with this perspective creates a much more authentic, rich, and rewarding experience than any outside business or company could ever offer. It’s important to go on vacation with self-care and relaxation on your mind, but maybe along the way, you’ll find yourself impacting a few lives by switching up just a couple of habits and planning your stay around how best you can give back to the places that have welcomed you as their guest!
Do you have more ideas of how to be a blessing to locals’ way of life when traveling? We’d love your feedback and comments.
Find out if you already practice sustainable, responsible tourism by taking our fun, 3-minute quiz HERE.
Part 3: What is Sustainable & Responsible Tourism? Part 3: Culturally-Respectful Travel