Experience Transat

How to Be a More Responsible Traveller

Share the article

The United Nations has dedicated 2017 to responsible tourism for development.  This form of tourism aims to better address the immediate environmental, social and economic impacts and ensure a positive future for people and their environment. We take this to heart, which is why we’re sharing our tips on how to put these responsible travel ideas into practice.

Being a better, more responsible traveller means respecting the environment, communities and local economies. Whatever your destination! Fortunately, there are a number of actions you can take that are both easy to implement and highly effective.

Prioritize public transport

Public transport, whether by train or bus, is environmentally friendly way to meet and interact with the locals. It’s also good for your wallet! It’s a much more authentic experience than owning a car.

In the city, of course, walking and biking are the best ways to reduce your transportation footprint. They also offer a unique approach to time, with moments of contemplation and spontaneity harder to find in cars.

Reduce water and electricity consumption

Beyond consumer goods, the use of natural resources such as water and electricity is at the heart of the responsible travel discourse in the context of global warming. This is especially true in countries with hot and dry climates, where water and electricity are real issues for the local population on a daily basis. The negative impacts of mass tourism can be felt much more acutely in these fragile destinations.

Why not implement these simple yet effective tips on your next vacation?

  • Consider not changing your hotel towels every day
  • Prefer water in pitchers where facilities allow
  • Be sure to turn off lights in your accommodation when you leave for the day.
  • Close curtains to avoid excessive use of air conditioning during the day; better yet, turn it off!
voyage responsable - responsible traveler

Verify the validity of activities

In addition to everyday consumption, your choices in tourism activities are crucial. Before booking a sports, cultural or nature activity, you can analyze its impact on the environment and local communities.

  • Is the activity economically beneficial to the local community?
  • Does it respect the local culture?
  • What is the potential impact of the activity on the environment?
  • Don’t hesitate to ask service providers about their approaches and compare them.

Observe nature ethically

When hiking, it’s important to stay on the trails so as not to damage the vegetation and to be quiet for the animals’ well-being. Many species are very sensitive to disturbance in their natural habitat, so it’s important to keep your distance and be as discreet as possible.

Unfortunately, in some places, tourists or service providers may be seen feeding wild animals. This should be avoided. Not only does it cause health problems for the animals, but it completely distorts their wild behavior.

Some wildlife watching activities, such as whale watching, must meet international criteria. Make sure that the tour operator you choose respects these criteria and operates according to animal welfare principles.

Choose eco-responsible accommodation

You can also make a positive difference by choosing where you stay. Many properties are developing sustainable approaches to reduce their environmental impact, some of them quite creatively. This can take the form of green building, waste reduction, energy efficiency and social initiatives. Various certifications (Green Globe, Green Key, Earth check, Preferred by Nature, Travelife and other sustainable tourism certifications) allow us to identify properties that are committed to the environment. 

Air Transat also lists its eco-responsible hotels in a search engine, which is very useful when planning your trip.

Compensate your carbon emissions

For your air travel, I recommend calculating and offsetting your carbon footprint. Air Transat offers a handy tool to do this easily online. You can support the certified climate project of your choice that captures, reduces or avoids carbon emissions.

Travel off-season

Traveling off-season means immersing yourself in the local culture, enjoying every inch of the stunning scenery, indulging in your favorite activities, and savoring the local specialties on your plate and in your glass… With fewer tourists. You’ll get to create special rapport with the locals and return home with a head full of wonderful memories. And a couple of new friends!

It’s often the less crowded places and times that offer the best encounters and travel experiences.

If you want to visit famous landmarks, it’s best to do so outside the busy tourist season or during off-peak hours to enhance your experience. This is important to spread the tourist season more evenly throughout the year, thus reducing the strain on resources and allowing both tourists and locals to share space in a more fruitful, positive way.

Avoid excessive haggling

To be sustainable, tourism must also be economically viable. This means a fair return for those involved in tourism, as well as a fair distribution of profits.

In countries where bargaining is part of the culture, it’s not uncommon to see artisans selling at a loss because they still need to make money. As travelers, it’s our responsibility to consider the value of things and what a difference in price might mean to the seller.

Remember that as a traveler, you have a great privilege. Depending on where you’re traveling, not everyone you meet has or will ever have the financial means to travel abroad. Show compassion and don’t negotiate prices down to the bare minimum every time you go shopping. That extra bit of cash may mean more to the artisans than you can imagine.

Be mindful of donations

As far as the question of donations is concerned, we also have to be careful. Generosity can feed vicious circles (dropping out of school, human trafficking, mafia…), especially when it comes to children; many parents will conclude that their child benefits more from begging tourists than from going to school. If you really want to help the local people, find out what they really need.

Find out about reputable local organizations that can make good use of your donations of money or equipment.

Consume local products

Choose local products and independently owned shops and establishments is often the first step in becoming a responsible traveller. This is not only a way to learn about local traditions, but it’s also a great way to meet new people over a shared indulgence. For cooking or souvenir shopping, consider the public markets. You’ll find interesting products, both gustatory and ecological, as well as passionate vendors who are happy to share their stories with you.

Personally, I love wandering around to discover unusual foods, exotic fruits and traditional dishes.

planifier un voyage responsable - how to be a responsible traveler

Try community-based tourism

Finally, for tourism to be sustainable, people must be at the center of the process. Ensuring a dignified future for men and women means not only providing them with economic resources, but also ensuring their personal fulfillment.

That’s why respecting customs and traditions is an essential part of our approach to responsible travel. Learning about traditions and meeting local people are simple and enriching principles that we put into practice in our travels.

Why not try community tourism? Stay with families where you’ll be immersed in their daily lives. It’s a great way to experience a rich intercultural exchange.

How can you be a responsible traveller: develop an open mind first and foremost

These are two particularly powerful tools that will provide you with unforgettable and unique encounters and exchanges. Going on vacation to come back changed, maybe even a better person, is the key to a responsible and truly meaningful trip in the first place.

Get a zero-waste kit

The best way to reduce waste when you travel? Eliminate it at the source! The saying “take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints” is a bit overused, but there’s some truth to that.

Waste management is a complex issue, especially in certain countries where recycling systems are not efficient. You can easily adopt a zero-waste approach by using portable and practical items such as water bottles, tote bags or reusable utensils. And say no to plastic bags from the shops whenever you can. This is the best way to dramatically reduce your footprint at your destination and be a truly responsible traveller.

All photo credits: Laura Le Guen

The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

You may also like

How to choose substainable travel souvenirs and experiences that are sure to leave a lasting impression on your heart and mind.

Travel with Air Transat