As tourists and travellers, we have a unique responsibility. When we choose to visit another destination we must strive to respect and uphold the values, traditions and societal norms of that particular place. As outsiders, we tend to disregard our behaviour believing that we are temporary visitors who will not return to a place again. This is when several problems arise. Being a responsible traveller is the need of the hour.
Over the years, there have been continuous reports about misbehaving tourists, tourists who pollute the environment and tourists who disregard the culture of a place. Over tourism has further fuelled this phenomenon. The impact on the environment has also been significant, as the number of tourists have increased; the mess they leave behind has also increased. How can we be better? How can we learn to respect the place that we visit and ensure our own safety as well of those around us?
Proceeding with caution at tourist spots
Tourists frequently injure themselves at tourist sites that are dangerous. Beaches, hills, cliffs are areas where tourists tend to get enthusiastic and often hurt themselves. Fatalities have also been recorded. Over the past few months, the number of deaths at Mount Everest is an example of how ill-prepared tourists endanger the lives of themselves and those around them. It is important to read cautionary signs and follow them, to do enough research before visiting spots that might pose a danger and only then proceed.
In an attempt to get the perfect picture to post on social media, many tourists have lost their lives. This is unnecessary and can be avoided.
Respecting the environment and being sustainable
One of the most crucial aspects of being a tourist is taking care of the environment. We tend to litter and leave a lot of waste behind. In light of this, sustainable tourism has been on the rise as people have become more sensitive to the needs of the environment.
- To do your part, live in eco-hotels and other accommodations that operate with sustainability as their main goal.
- While travelling around the city use public transport instead of private vehicles to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Always ensure, to carry your waste to a dustbin and dispose of it there. Recently, several Japanese deer were killed because of the plastic they ingested that was left behind by tourists. Such instances are glaring examples of how we have failed as responsible travellers. Respecting the natural environment should always be a priority.
Before setting out on any trip, especially if it is one that is abroad, reading up on the new culture you will soon be a part of is essential. Any interaction between cultures is a two-way street, when you visit a new place and immerse yourself in its culture, the people you interact with learn as much about your culture as you do about theirs. Respecting local customs and traditions as a tourist is very important. Here’s what you can do to remain culturally aware when you are in a new place.
- Cultural practices: Reading up on the major cultural practices of the locals will help you make better sense of the people and the destination as a whole.
- Appropriate fashion: Wearing the right clothes in public spaces is extremely important in certain countries. In certain traditional countries, certain kinds of clothes are considered disrespectful to the local people. This is why doing some background research about appropriate clothing is essential.
- Norms of tipping and public behaviour are some of the things we need to be well aware of before we set out on a trip. Greeting individuals, etiquette on public transport are some of the few things you must be aware of in advance. This isn’t just to ensure that we don’t find ourselves in awkward situations. It is also a way of showing respect to the locals and their way of life.
- Learning basic exchanges in the local language will make your experience a lot more pleasant with the locals. It will also give you a taste of interacting in an entirely new language.
In essence, travelling to a different place isn’t just about seeing the best sites, or eating the best kind of food. We must learn to respect and honour the places we go to, irrespective of how short or long our stay is. As tourists and travellers, there is a certain unspoken code of conduct that we must make sure to imbibe within ourselves.