Just What Is An Ethical Holiday Anyway? 9 Tips to help you travel more ethically
Travelling ethically is more than just staying in a green hotel, when we talk about ethical holidays we’re not just talking about environmental awareness but social and economic benefits too. We believe that holidays should benefit all, that’s why we handpick every listing on our site for their ethical values and suggest nearby short term volunteering opportunities so you can get involved, experience new cultures and reconnect with nature.
Here are our top tips on how you can travel more ethically
Before you book your holiday check the credentials of your accommodation…
1. Sustainability and Environment
There’s been a lot of bad press lately about “Greenwashing” (organisations exaggerating their environmental policies to appear Green) so how can you be sure that the place you’re planning to go to actually acts in an environmentally friendly way? Take a look at how they operate sustainably. Do they have renewable energy? How do they manage their waste? Is the accommodation low impact and built with local and environmentally friendly materials? Hotels that truely do operate in a sustainable way often publish their policies on their website and should include responsible waste management and renewable energies.
2. Social Responsibility
Tourism should benefit the wider community, both socially and economically. Many hotels now have social responsibility policies but are these actually being implemented and how helpful are they to the wider community? How does your chosen holiday benefit the community? Do they support local initiatives? Perhaps they provide bursaries for students or contribute to educational programmes, this could be at a local level or internationally. If your chosen place to stay doesn't work with the local community is there a way you can help benefit it? Try to buy your souvenirs directly from the craftsperson, find a local guide or driver to help you see the sights and give you a better insight into the culture and customs and ask your hosts if there are any initiatives or locally run charities you can help out with (either financially or actively).
3. Sourcing Locally
Why import if the produce can be grown locally? Sourcing locally not only minimises the environmental impact but also helps local businesses. Find out if produce is sourced locally and how local businesses are supported - Do they sell items that are locally made and fair trade? Do they encourage guests to visit local shops and restaurants?
Whilst an all-inclusive resort may source their produce locally the very nature of an all-inclusive board basis can prevent guests from visiting local restaurants and bars, restricting the economic benefit tourism provides so it’s important to also look at how hotels help local businesses benefit through tourism. That's not to say that an all-inclusive hotel isn't ethical or responsible, some hotels have to offer full board due to their remote locations, however it's whether they promote local enterprises and if their produce is fairly and locally sourced that counts.
4. Fair Wage & Staff Development
This one is a little tricky as most organisations won’t publish wage details however they might tell you a bit about how they care for staff or provide education in certain areas such as environmental awareness, conservation or language lessons.
Luckily our listings provide information on how well staff are paid, additional staff benefits (such as healthcare) and personal development plans. Just look for the fair treatment badge on our listings to easily see the benefits provided to staff and their families
Whilst you’re away….
Ask yourself what impact your holiday is having to the local habitat and what can be done to help minimise this? For example camping and glamping sites tend to be low impact as structures can be easily removed and natural habitats do not need to be cleared to make space, whereas large holiday resorts in forested areas may have had to strip a large area of natural habitat for construction – do they work to replenish the area and if so how?
Some resorts take active steps to conserve not only the natural environment but also the surrounding wildlife. Check if your hosts take any action to help conservation efforts and whether guests can participate in these activities, one great example is our newest safari listing, who actively encourage their guests to help track, monitor and protect rhino's and lions within their reserve.
Your conservation work doesn’t have to be through your hosts or volunteering organisations, you can help with small independent actions like collecting and responsibly disposing of any litter you find, beach combing for plastics or simply reporting any illegal activity you see such as logging, trapping or hunting in protected areas and tourism based animal cruelty (see Be Respectful).
6. Be Respectful
Do a little research into the area you are travelling to and its culture and customs. Learning a few key words goes a long way and is usually greatly appreciated. As is showing respect for cultural and religious beliefs by dressing appropriately, watching your hand gestures and avoiding shouting or confrontational behaviour. For instance, it's generally best to use your right hand for gesturing and handing over items, remove your shoes before entering buildings and always cover up if you’re entering a religious or sacred space.
Respect isn't just about how you treat people when you're away though, it's also about respecting wildlife and the natural world. There are lots of tourist attractions and activities that use animals as a means of entertainment for tourists - these animals are often poached, forcibly removed from their mothers as babies and kept in cruel conditions just so a tourist can take a picture with a "tame" bear, ride an elephant or hug a slow loris. Don't participate in any activity that uses animals for entertainment, if you want to see a wild animal take a trip to it's natural habitat and see it how you're meant to - in the wild. OK so there aren't any guarantees you'll spot an asian Elephant in the jungle, or a tiger in India but the experience will be so much more exciting and unforgettable!
Most people don’t tend to think of this as an option when booking their holidays but volunteering is a really rewarding and memorable experience to take back from your trip. Not only will it help you to meet people and get more out of your holiday but it will also help the communities and habitats you’re visiting so everyone’s a winner.
We aim to match short term volunteering opportunities with our ethical places to stay wherever possible so that you can have a truly life changing holiday. You can volunteer for as little as a couple of hours, a day, week or even longer and many of our volunteering placements are free to join. From feeding homeless people in the city, working at an animal rescue centre or replanting the rainforest you're bound to have a life changing experience for your next trip away.
8. Get Involved
If volunteering isn’t your thing you can still get more out of your holiday by connecting with local people. Just have a chat with people you meet, from hotel employees, shop or stall holders to the person sitting next to you on the bus - most people are more than happy to share some local knowledge, help you understand their culture or even teach you a few words in their language. You might even get invited to meet their families and make a friend for life!
Keep your eyes peeled for bars and restaurants popular with the locals - they may not look as flashy and inviting as the ones on the main strips but you're more likely to get an authentic meal that's good value for money, witness the real way of life and experience a few new things if you step out of the tourism comfort zone a little.
9. Giving Back
Check if there’s a way that you can give back – initiatives like Pack for A Purpose are a great way to help deliver much needed supplies (such as pens, notepads, toys and hygiene products) to a community.
Does the travel organisation you’re booking with donate to charities or support charitable organisations? How else do they support these? Perhaps they organise or donate gifts to fundraising events. Here at Ethical Holiday we donate at least 15% of our profits back to good causes every year and let our community choose who we donate to.
Wow that sounds like a lot of research just for a holiday! Luckily we’ve done the hard work for you. Every place listed on our site has been carefully selected for their ethical criteria, and to help you see if they match your values we’ve awarded badges for each positive impact they help to achieve. Just click on the ethical badges to find out how your chosen accommodation matches our ethical criteria.
Take a look at some of our Ethical Holidays here