With climate change and human rights issues being widely reported on the news many holidaymakers are now seeking ways in which they can minimise the impact made by their trips, and even bring benefits to local economies. So what can you do?
Reduce your carbon footprint
As T.S Eliot famously said “The journey, not the arrival matters”. Most trips tend to involve getting to your destination as fast as possible, but sometimes lengthening your journey can be part of the holiday in itself as well as being eco-friendly. Nowadays we can fly vast distances in a few hours and we take this for granted. But it’s easy to lose perspective of how far you’ve travelled and it’s rare to see anything particularly impressive in the air.
It would not be unfair to argue that the rail network on the Continent is far superior to the British version. Trains are quiet, fast, and luxurious, and fares are reasonable. In countries such as Switzerland, taking the train offers stunning scenery and can be the highlight of the holiday. Another bonus is that bus and train stations and ferry ports tend to be closer to city centres than airports, saving you money and emissions on transfers.
Taking the ferry or chunnel to the continent is very competitively priced nowadays as the providers compete with the low-cost airlines. Ferries are a very pleasant mode of travel and there is plenty of room to walk around without annoying your fellow passengers. Longer crossings to Scandinavia and Germany are almost cruises in themselves with comfortable cabins and plenty to do on board.
If you are really keen to check out your carbon footprint on your holiday travel, an excellent calculator is here. The website www.ecotravelling.co.uk also offers some useful tips on how to reduce carbon emissions in your travel plans.
Keep your money local
If you are not a frequent visitor of developing countries you might be daunted by the poverty you may witness. One of the best things you can do about it is to make sure your tourist money goes into the local economy as much as possible.
Try and buy supplies, food and souvenirs from local stores and restaurants rather from your resort and don’t automatically assume that you must go with your tour operator’s excursions and car hire companies – there is more than likely a local company offering the same at a more competitive rate. Obviously you will have to make your own judgements on safety and security with these, but don’t be put off.
Do your homework before visiting attractions involving animals. Zoos abroad are not always up to the welfare standards you might expect here. On the other hand, many attractions are actively involved in wildlife conservation programmes and are well worth your tourist money.
In some resorts you might be offered the opportunity to have your photo taken on the beach with a chimpanzee or exotic birds. Don’t do this – you have no way of telling what conditions the animal is kept in and if you did find out, you might well be appalled. Give the money you would have spent to a local animal welfare organisation instead.
More responsible tourism
The good habits that you may already apply at home don’t have to go to pot because you are on holiday. Reuse carrier bags and dispose of your rubbish responsibly. Germany and Austria are leading the way on this and you will be expected to sort your refuse.
Many hotels now offer the option to not have your towels and linen changed every day. If they don’t, let them know that you are happy to wait a few days between changes.
Don’t forget your insurance!
As you can see, being a responsible tourist isn’t difficult. But don’t forget to look after number one as well and take out travel insurance for your trip. 24/7 travel insurance offers comprehensive insurance cover for under a fiver*, so you can relax and enjoy your holiday knowing you are being a good tourist in more ways than one!
*Premium £4.86 includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on an individual traveller aged under 55 taking out a ‘standard’ Single Trip policy for 3 days in Europe and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press and are subject to change.