Ahh. At last. There you are, lying out on your lounger underneath the sun umbrella, with an endless white sandy beach stretched out before you. Drink in hand, you will spend the afternoon reading and people watching, perhaps a brief swim in the warm waters of this tropical ocean.
You make sure you have your sunscreen on and keep yourself well hydrated. Later on, you will return to your hotel room and dine in the hotel’s extravagant restaurant. Tomorrow brings the promise of an exciting snorkeling day, to see the beautiful coral reef and the rainbow-colored fish that abounds in these warm waters.
You have worked hard to pay for this vacation so you will enjoy the time off. In fact, this place is so relaxing that you vow to visit it again and see some of the local amenities on your next visit.
Fast forward five years and there you are again… but WAIT! What has happened to the beach, the beautiful coral reefs, that little bistro you wanted to eat at just down the street…?
This has all changed.
Over-tourism has threatened the very environment you saw as so relaxing on your first trip. That white sandy beach is littered with plastic from straws, water bottles, and other non-disposable plastics that have filled the ocean.
That coral reef has been bleached by the chemicals in the sunscreen creams that we are so careful to apply before going into the water. The loss of that coral reef also impacts the fish population that lives amongst the protection of the reef.
Lack of business for the local bistro means that it had to close its door and the big American-style fast-food franchises are moving in. I am sure you are getting the picture by now, so how can we, as travelers wanting an exciting vacation, change this. After all, we are just one person or one family.
Vacations should be exciting and not limiting, of course, but we also want to ensure the sustainability of future vacations. This is where responsible tourism comes into the picture.
What exactly is responsible tourism and how can we become responsible tourists?
One word, respect, is the principal motivator to being responsible. As more and more tourists enjoy this beautiful planet, we should be respectful and sensitive to the environment, the people whose homes we are visiting, the cultures that has been formed in years past. As we do this, we will open up the many layers of this planet.
Some practical ways to show respect for the environment are to:
Responsible travel does not have to be limiting. It can, in fact, be quite the opposite, opening up endless ways to explore this planet. Be adventurous and continue to explore. Happy travels now and in the future.
Do you think you are a responsible traveler? What do you do to show respect to the people and places you visit? Have you re-visited a location only to see it had changed dramatically since your first visit? How had things changed? Please share with the community.