There are a few destinations on almost everyone’s bucket list. Travel is now more accessible, and not only something the rich and elite have access to. Add in social media and the attention gorgeous photos and Instagramability gives destinations, and you have a plethora of travelers heading to popular destinations.
Unfortunately, the downside of too much tourism is that the original character of these places are in jeopardy. Kurt Kutay, founder and president of Wildland Adventures, suggests six ways to travel responsibly in an age of over-tourism. Kutay’s company uses the Wild Style of travel, meaning Wildland trips are curate to build lasting intercultural, interpersonal, and environmental bonds. They promote sincerity, compassion, and understanding at each step of the journey, with a goal of enhancing, rather than exploiting the destinations and people they visit.
Here are the six ways to have your clients travel responsibly:
1. Manage Your Expectations and Emotions
Make sure your clients align their expectations with reality, in order to not be disappointed during their travels. If you allow their preconceived notion of the Taj Mahal or Machu Picchu to take center stage, which are mostly likely views of the scenes without crowds, they will end up leaving disappointed.
Provide them with proper research to help align their expectations with reality. Ask them questions, but make sure to ask the right questions. And remind them to stay open to the experience, while letting go of their preconceived expectations. Remind them not to let themselves get annoyed with crowds, or allow that to distract them from what drew them to that destination in the first place.
2. Find a Local Connection
Hire a passionate, local guide to help deepen your guest’s travel experiences. This will also help with the crowds. A good local guide can help skip the crowds at popular sites, and even introduce lesser-known sites for a unique perspective.
For instance, a good guide will take guests to the Taj Mahal twice. Once to get in line before it opens, and later in the afternoon before it closes to experience variable lighting. Kuta remembers his last visit, “Instead of passing through the main gates twice, our local guide took us to the Mehatab Bagh (Moonlight Garden) across the Yamuna River, far from the tourist hordes, where we stood arm-in-arm, standing alone and moved to tears by the beautiful silhouette.”
3. Rethink Your Bucket List
Help your clients discover wonders of the world behind UNESCO’s at-risk sites or the favorite ports of call of the cruise industry. Instead of the crowded hilltop towns of Tuscany, offer them the hills of the Istrian peninsula of Slovenia and Croatia. Instead of being part of the overcrowding problem in Venice, book them on a ferry to the small fishing town of Roving, whee they’ll be welcomed by locals who can take them around in a traditional Batana fishing boat.
4. Timing is Everything—Spend Time at the Right Place
Make sure to plan your client’s day at famous sites carefully. Also, make sure to get the latest information as local conditions and regulations change often. For instance, for those heading to Croatia, plan to tour Dubrovnik before the cruise passengers disembark. In Cambodia, have them visit Siem Reap before the tour buses arrive. And in Peru, have them arrive at Machu Picchu before the daily trains do. Remind your clients that once they’ve arrived at their dream destination, take the time to linger and take it all in. Give themselves to enjoy the experience, but remind them they might have to see fewer places in order to not feel rushed.
5. Pay to Play
Many worthwhile experiences cost more, plan with your client where the best spots to splurge on will be. Whether they’ll take part in a private and exclusive event, or a carefully managed ecotour that limits the number of visitors, the extra expense helps protect fragile habitats and visitor experiences.
For instance, in Africa, this might mean tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda, which requires limited permits. To protect the experience in some areas for years to come, some safaris are very exclusive and conducted in a private nature reserve like Timbavati in Greater Kruger National Park. In Tanzania, the remote camps of Katavi and Mahale require bush flights across some of the wildest places on the planet.
It’s the same for popular destinations in South America. The cultural patrimony of the Inca Trail in Peru and the delicate balance of nature in the Galapagos Islands are carefully managed by limited permits and fees that control access and provide a source of revenue for critical conservation programs. Advance planning is required to make sure your clients enjoy the privilege of being among the limited numbers when permits are allotted.
6. Consider Where You Stay
When choosing your client’s accommodations, keep in mind that this is one of the most important considerations in minimizing impact on the local environs while maximizing the benefits travelers bring to the local community. Many hotels, camps, ecolodges, yachts, and expedition ships are rated for their level of sustainability. They are rated on energy sources, recycling, waste management, water conservation, food sourcing, and other sustainability-focused initiatives. In addition, many of these are actively involved in nature and wildlife conservation and in educating guests about ecosystems and biodiversity. These accommodations are deeply connected and committed to indigenous culture and the well-being of local communities. The highest rated ecolodges and caps are safeguarding the world’s cultural and natural heritage while delivering the most meaningful guest experiences.
When keeping these six guidelines in mind, also remind your clients that traveling responsibly isn’t about staying home. The Center for Responsible Tourism says that traveling responsibly is “…is about managing travel and destinations in an environmentally and culturally responsible way and designing tourism programs and individual trips carefully to provide travelers with the experience they seek, while leaving a positive footprint on their destination.”
Kutay says, that though destinations are always changing and we have many choices to make when we travel, “the important thing is to be mindful of our impact on the people and places that give us so much and help others to do the same…and to keep traveling.”