With advances in transportation and travel becoming more affordable, far-off destinations have become much more accessible. However, while this is positive for many would-be travelers, it can negatively impact local communities. As modern-day explorers become more aware of this, many of us look for ways we can travel more sustainably and responsibly.
Mass tourism has traditionally had little regard for its damaging effects. Ship anchors broke coral reefs. Unchecked development destroyed ecosystems. Pollution amassed on the outskirts of pristine locations. The tourism strategy was focused on maximum revenue at any environmental cost, and unaware tourists came by the droves.
But responsible travel has turned that approach on its head. Responsible tour companies, like Zegrahm Expeditions and International Expeditions, participate (and often lead) in protecting local environments. Eco-lodges strive to blend in with the environment, with minimal footprint and maximum exposure to nature.
Without these ongoing changes, travel as an industry will prove unsustainable. The pressures of our modern lifestyle on the planet have already proven too great. So it only makes sense that those of us who appreciate the world should move about as respectfully as we can. True responsible travel outfitters have made doing that easy.
Making the local community a part of the process gives the entire community a sense of ownership. It ensures they feel empowered rather than exploited, valued rather than vulnerable, and they truly become the face of the places in which they live. They lead the tours. They give workshops, lectures, and demonstrations of traditional practices. They help to create conservation initiatives, and actively participate in the visitor experience. In turn, a sense of pride and self-determination enlivens local communities.
Travel needs to be a celebration of both people and place. Responsible travel is a movement towards recognizing the value of those communities who are kind enough to share themselves and their homes.
It’s important to recognize that tourism accounts for over 10% of jobs globally. The industry is especially pertinent in developing nations, where foreign money can potentially strengthen local economies.
Traveling responsibly helps make tourism a constructive force that benefits the ecology and economy. Money is invested into real infrastructure improvements on a local level. Homegrown businesses are supported, impoverished communities are empowered, and truly beneficial trade takes place.
Vilifying tourism as an industry won’t put the ills of the world any closer to being resolved. Instead, with responsible tourism, there is an opportunity to set an example for what sustainable, ethical business practices can be. Responsible travel creates winning results for everyone involved.
Developing infrastructure is typically viewed as positive. But, as with most things, there are good and bad ways of going about it. Unchecked development causes environmental damage, both through site demolition and material importation. It’s exclusive rather than inclusive. It’s short-sighted as opposed to forward-thinking.
Tourism built around the idea of respecting people and places intrinsically moves towards the right kind of infrastructure. The environment is treated as a treasure to protect, not an obstacle. Materials are sourced sustainably and locally. Local people are valued as contributors and leaders in the development, rather than voiceless bystanders.
When infrastructure is developed this way, over-tourism is inherently thwarted. Rainforests aren’t bulldozed to put up concrete resorts that serve imported food. People aren’t marginalized into characters of themselves but are active accomplices in development efforts. Growth occurs slowly, organically, and non-invasively.
Tourism was once synonymous with “vacationing.” It usually involved a half-day drive to the nearest beach town with the family for some fun in the sun. It involved all-inclusive resorts, tacky gift shops, and all-you-can-eat buffets. Experiencing the local flavor was never the point.
Mass tourism has always isolated the traveler from the resident. But responsible, expedition travel strives for the exact opposite – to reward locals for their efforts, offer our appreciation, and respect their home and traditions. When travel is more immersive and experience-focused rather than exploitative, the interactions are more genuine. You get a chance to see the local community for what it truly is, rather than a show created to feel like something it’s not. You get a taste of the real indigenous culture, rather than a show put on for profit.
Responsible tourism is at the heart of everything we do at International Expeditions and Zegrahm Expeditions. Both companies are committed to preserving wildlife and nature and fostering an appreciation of the people and cultures we encounter through the world.
At International Expeditions, we work with locals on the ground in the countries we explore to give our team an insider’s perspective on the daily challenges of life in Earth’s wildest ecosystems. This understanding and partnership helps us create effective, long-term health and education solutions that ensure lasting opportunity for local people while conserving local environments. We’re also involved in a number of community-based projects around the world, including the Clear Water Project, Adopt-a-School Program, Medical Clinic Support, the Masai Mara Project, and more.
At Zegrahm, we are proud to partner with and support a number of organizations doing important work in the regions we visit, such as the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, and as a founding member of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.
Responsible tour operators like International Expeditions and Zegrahm Expeditions, working in partnership with our guests, can be a driving force behind conservation and education efforts aimed at stabilizing fragile environments. Tourists spend $200 billion in developing countries every year. Inspired by your adventure and the warm, inviting people you encounter, you too can join us and have a positive, sustainable impact in the places we explore.
International Expeditions and Zegrahm Expeditions, working in partnership with our guests, are a driving force behind conservation and education efforts aimed at stabilizing fragile environments.
Join us in making the world of travel a little brighter, see our featured trips below.