1. Stay with a local
Encourage the growth of local business and help create jobs by staying in locally owned hotels. For a more intimate experience, homestays with reputable organisations channel funds back to the areas they are based in. When communities benefit financially from tourism, it allows them to preserve and showcase their culture and customs, says Sarah Griffin, sales and marketing director of travel company Buffalo Tours. In Sapa, Vietnam, Buffalo Tours works with a local NGO to refurbish locals’ homes, then invites visitors to experience village life.
2. Kind dining
It is possible to feed both your appetite and the local economy. Many social enterprises run restaurants that function as a training ground for people in need. Lotus Blanc (below) in Phnom Penh employs disadvantaged youth, and equips them with the skills to break the poverty cycle. Apps such as Bonappetour and EatWith link travellers with residents, who will prepare a meal for a fee. This allows interaction with locals, while providing them with an income.
3. Spend wisely
Support artisans by buying souvenirs directly from them. Going straight to the source means craftsmen do not have to share their profits with a middleman. Tourists can benefit the local economy by checking the origin of a product and visiting local markets, says Chi Lo, a sustainability and social responsibility specialist at Pacific Asia Travel Association. And don’t forget to be respectful. “By all means, bargain at markets, but don’t let it go too far. Stay kind,” advises Willem Niemeijer, CEO of sustainable travel company Yaana Ventures. “And tip your drivers, guides, maids and restaurant staff.”
SEE ALSO: How to be a responsible wildlife tourist
4. Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to query tour operators. “If your itinerary looks similar to other travel agents, it’s likely to be a mass-market experience, which isn’t of great benefit to the destination or the traveller,” says Griffin. “Ask your agent for their responsible tourism guidelines. This is a clue to understanding if they truly value local communities and operate responsibly.”
– TEXT BY CAMILA TAN
PHOTOS: BUFFALO TOURS, LOTUS BLANC FACEBOOK
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.