Earth is an amazing place, but it’s far from perfect. So, when you take to the road it’s important to give back as much – if not more – than what you take away.
According to the UN, travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, accounting for 9 per cent of the world’s GDP; however, it estimates that of every US$100 a tourist spends, only US$5 stays in the communities that they visit. To ensure your travel dollars stay where it matters, keep things local when travelling.
This list of top tips can help you build a better world through travel – while still giving you a fair chance to work through your bucket list.
Choose small, locally owned accommodations rather than big international chains – this will not only help you keep the overall cost of your trip down, but also ensure that your travel dollars stay where you spend them. This could mean a hand-picked downtown hotel one night, a unique homestay the next, or maybe camping under the stars the night after that. The best part? Staying local means that your choices are more likely to reflect the character of the destination. Supporting local entrepreneurs and small businesses strengthens communities, raises the overall quality of life, and ensures that the places you love will continue to be loved.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. Food, cooking, and dining are fundamental to every culture; hence, if you get to know what you’re eating, you’ll soon gain insight into the culture in which you’re immersed on an elemental level. By eating local, you’ll find yourself diving headfirst into traditions that have been around for thousands of years.
Sure, you can go anywhere in the world and order food from one of the big multinational chains; however, instead of benefiting the local community, a large portion of your dollar will leave the country. Moreover, in places dependent on tourism where demand for Western food is high, local food will become less prevalent. Eating seasonally, locally grown food is important, and carries benefits to your health, the planet, and your wallet. Not only do you enjoy a superior meal at a fair price, you support the local community and enjoy a more enriching travel experience in the process!
Use local transportation
Some folks like the convenience of larger private coaches when travelling; however, there’s only so much you can see from the window of a big bus. Using local transport means that you can get places that bigger groups can’t. Use public transport, hire a bike, or walk when convenient – it’s a great way to meet local people on their terms and reduce pollution and carbon emissions. Don’t travel to merely see the world – get out and meet it!
Use local tour guides
When you travel, it’s worth the effort to find a local tour guide, as they’re the most capable of connecting you to more enriching experiences since they offer local insight and can pursue great experiences as they happen.
In destinations that are historically, culturally, or environmentally rich, an educated local guide can offer a depth of experience and knowledge that no guidebook or audio guide will ever approach. A good guide can explain the stories behind the relief on a Khmer temple, or veer away from the canned history of Genghis Khan to describe what life in Mongolia was really like. When considering a guide, use local leaders so that you can learn about culture directly from those who live it, while ensuring your money remains in the community’s economy.
Get off the beaten track
Tourism has massive potential to create jobs in areas that need them the most; however, cities most popular with tourists often attract multinationals who export profits and contribute to the erosion of local culture. That’s why it’s important to consider using tour operators who value small, locally owned businesses over big international chains. In many countries, tourism is often the most viable and sustainable economic development option and, if properly managed, it can directly benefit the poorest and most marginalised parts of society.
This post originally appeared here.