Feb 21, 2018
It’s possible to have an authentic and responsible travel experience even when heading to three of the most in-demand destinations in the world. Here’s how.
With the United Nations dubbing 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the past year saw changes such as Venice’s rerouting of large cruise ships away from its Grand Canal, Amsterdam standing up to a preponderance of beer bikes and the construction of new hotels and tourist-centred shops, and Thailand banning smoking on its beaches.
Justin Francis, founder and CEO of Responsible Travel, expects the sector to continue in much the same vein this year, with 2018 being all about tackling ‘overtourism’. “This begins with a total change of mindset for all of us,” he says. “We need to free ourselves from the restraints of crowd-following and bravely seek out our own alternative adventures.”
Eco-diligent travellers visiting the top three tourist cities – Bangkok, London and Paris, as cited in the 2017 Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index – can start by offsetting flights, and then putting these sustainable ideas to practice.
Bangkok tops the list of most visited cities, with 19.41 million calling on it in 2016. To avoid the crowds, go during low season, which usually coincides with the south-west monsoon (typically from July to October). “Showers usually pass in a few hours,” says Francis.
Choose eco-conscious hotels such as Akyra Sukhumvit Bangkok (above), which has a ‘no single-use plastic’ initiative. Want a guided tour? Join a sustainability minded one such as Vivid Travel’s, which takes you around on public transport and supports family-run local businesses – including one that makes the alms bowls (below) used by monks.
Donna Lawrence, responsible travel manager at World Expeditions, advises educating yourself before going on the trip. “Many of us have inadvertently contributed to problems by being unaware of issues,” she says. “We know now that riding elephants, for example, is a big no-no”.