Today’s Culture with Travel guest post is by Leigh Marcos
Travel provides the chance to experience other cultures and places which are wildly different from our own. Spending your life in a big city with skyscrapers makes you want to head out to vast plains and get back in touch with nature and people living a simpler life. It’s important to understand that these wildly different lifestyles do not always result in equality when the two mix; and this is especially true of western tourism in places like Africa. Planning your trip is very exciting, but do remember to take a step back and consider the ethics and sustainability of your choices.
Doing your research
It’s estimated that each tourist in Africa has the potential to support ten local people. When money from tourism is siphoned off into the pockets of Western companies, the local community and ecosystem doesn’t get the benefits. Researching your travel company or lodge base to make sure that they operate in harmony with the local community is really important – so try and find out if they employ locals for guiding and hospitality roles, where they source their food and drink, and if they do things like laundry and cleaning in-house, or outsource. Another good indication is if your hotel or tour administers a community levy – normally between $5-$10 a night – which goes directly to local people to help support the very things tourists want to visit.
Heading to Africa, there’s a high chance you’ll be thinking about a safari. Touring Africa’s greatest national parks and getting to tick ‘the big five’ off your list is a huge draw for many; but making sure that you are supporting the conservation of these species, rather than exploiting them, is very important. Many of these animals are at risk from poachers and are highly endangered, so opting for tours which explicitly support and help to fund conservation work is key. After all, without the animals there will be no more safaris.
It can be difficult to wade through the many companies and operators promoting themselves as ‘green’ or ‘ethical’ – as the importance of this becomes more apparent, more companies try and cash in on tourists’ desire to vacation more responsibly. Don’t completely discount large companies, but do make sure to ask specific questions and talk to the owners or previous customers to make sure that the central ethos supports responsible travel. Helping to sustain the unique things about Africa which make it such a captivating destination will ensure it survives for generations to come.
Have you visited Africa? Why is responsible and ethical tourism important – and how can people travel in such a manner? Share in the comments!