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Travelling responsibly can provide a richer holiday experience. It means that you're not just passing by, but are actively contributing to the places you visit and the people who live there. The purpose of this book is to give you the tools to make an informed decision about your holiday. It is designed to help you plan your trip, what to look out for, how to get the most out of your holiday and how to give others feedback on your experience.
The Responsible
How to find, book and get the most from your holiday
Anna Spenceley & Andrew Rylance
April 2016
“Twenty years from now you
will be more disappointed by
the things you didn’t do than by
the ones you did do. So throw
off the bowlines, sail away from
the safe harbor. Catch the trade
winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain
Acknowledgements: The information provided in this book is up to date to the best of the authors’ knowledge at
the time of going to press. The advice provided is intended as guidance and it is responsibility of the traveller to
thoroughly investigate their potential options before their trip. The authors are not responsible for services offered
by a company highlighted here. Many thanks to Prof. Steve McCool and Dr Susan Snyman of the IUCN World
Commission of Protected Areas (WCPA) Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group (TAPAS Group), Randy
Durband of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization, for their
valuable comments on a early version of this book. Also thanks to Mary-Anne van der Byl for the design and
typesetting of the book.
Declaration: No fee has been charged to any organization to be included in this book and no preferential treatment
is provided to those selected. We have chosen the organisations, which in our experience have a strong reputation
in the industry for being responsible.
This book is an initiative contributing to the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme.
The Responsible Traveller | Issue 1
Andrew and Anna are a husband and wife team, living
on the coast in South Africa, and operate their own
sustainable tourism research and consultancy business:
Spenceley Tourism and Development (STAND). They
specialise in providing technical advice on sustainable
tourism and conservation globally. They travel
extensively, with their young daughter, Emma in tow, for
work aiming to promote responsible tourism businesses
that support income-generating opportunities for local
communities and promote good conservation practice.
STAND is a partner institution of the 10YFP Sustainable
Tourism Program.
Dr Anna Spenceley is a tourism consultant who has
20 years experience sustainable tourism. She is a
renowned international expert in sustainable and
responsible tourism, with an extensive publication
record, rich diversity of project experience, an extensive
international network of associates with whom she
collaborates. Dr Spenceley focuses on nature-based
tourism, community-based tourism, value and supply
chains, certication and standards, public-private
partnerships, triple bottom line assessments (i.e.
economic, social and environmental), small enterprise
development and poverty reduction. Anna is Chair
of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas
(WCPA) Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group
(TAPAS Group), a member of the Global Sustainable
Tourism Council’s Destination Working Group, and
leads the Capacity Building portfolio of the Southern
African Development Community’s (SADC) Sustainable
Tourism Forum. Anna a also sits on the editorial boards
of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism and Koedoe.
Anna is an accredited trainer for the Global Sustainable
Tourism Council. Her prole is included in Who’s Who
in the World.
Andrew Rylance is an economic development specialist
focusing on tourism in rural areas and natural resource
economics. Based in South Africa, he has 10 years of
experience working in Africa and Europe. Andrew is a
specialist in private sector development with a focus
on business development, cultural tourism, public
private partnerships, investment promotion, tourism,
conservation, business development, value and
supply chains, economic valuations of conservation
areas and corporate sustainability reporting. He has
worked throughout Africa for organisations such as the
United Nations, World Bank, European Union, German
International Cooperation (GIZ) and SNV. He is a research
fellow of the University of Johannesburg and holds a
Post Graduate Certicate in Applied Environmental
Economics from the University of London, a Masters
Degree in Development Studies from the University
of KwaZulu-Natal and a Bachelors Degree (Honours)
in Economics and Politics from the University of
York. He is currently a Senior Project Advisor with the
United Nations Development Programme supporting
sustainable nancing of protected areas in Mozambique.
Previously, he was a technical expert for GIZ on local
economic development in South Africa and Rwanda. He
is also a member of the IUCN WCPA TAPAS Group.
If you would like to contact Andrew and Anna below
are their contact email addresses:
About the authors
Why travel responsibly? ...............................................................4
What is a Responsible Tourist? .................................................... 5
Do things a bit differently: ............................................................6
What makes a responsible holiday? .............................................6
PART ONE ...................................................................................7
Things to do before you travel .................................................7
Deciding where to go ...............................................................8
Booking a hotel or tour using an online booking platform ....... 9
Booking directly with a hotel ..................................................10
Finding international award winners ......................................11
Top tips .................................................................................. 12
PART TWO .................................................................................13
On your holiday ...................................................................... 13
Get involved in local projects .................................................14
Top Tips for Divers ................................................................. 15
Top Tips for Hikers ................................................................. 15
PART THREE ..............................................................................16
When you get home ............................................................... 16
PART FOUR ................................................................................18
Final thoughts... .....................................................................18
DIRECTORY ...............................................................................19
Organisation’s logos have hyper links inserted for easy access
to websites. There is also a directory at the end of this booklet
with all organisations and their website URLS.
Travelling responsibly can provide a richer holiday
experience. It means that you’re not just passing by,
but are actively contributing to the places you visit,
and the people who live there.
The purpose of this book is to give you the tools to
make an informed decision about your holiday. It is
designed to help you plan your trip, what to look out
for, how and where to check feedback to make sure you
are going to enjoy it, how to get the most out of your
holiday and how and where to give others feedback on
your experience.
We have spent many years conducting research
on responsible tourism, trying to understand how
to promote travel experiences that add value to
destinations: by helping to protect nature and heritage,
whilst creating opportunities for local communities.
We have gathered many insights during this time, and
now want to share them with you - the tourist – the
responsible traveller.
You may not know whether you are a responsible
traveller or not. That’s OK, because hopefully there
might be a few ideas that will help change that. We
aim to help you create travel experiences that you will
never forget and will be able to tell to others for years.
At least, we hope it will – try reading this and then
decide for yourself.
Why travel responsibly?
The Responsible Traveller | Issue 1
The term responsible tourism is used in a lot of forms
from ‘eco-tourism’ to ‘sustainable tourism’ and ‘conscious
tourism’. They all have their specic nuances, but in
essence, responsible tourism:
minimizes negative impacts on the economy,
environment and society;
generates economic benets for local people and
enhances the well-being of host communities, improves
working conditions and access to the industry;
involves local people in decisions that affect their
lives and life changes;
makes positive contributions to the conservation
of natural, social and cultural heritage, to the
maintenance of the world’s diversity;
provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists
through more meaningful connections with local
people, and a greater understanding of local cultural,
social and environmental issues;
provides access for people with disabilities and the
disadvantaged; and
is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between
tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and
Put simply, by travelling responsibly, host communities and
destinations will benet from the money you spend there –
and you will have a more meaningful travel experience than
a standard holiday.
Essentially, you are responsible for how and where you
spend your money; that you don’t damage the place you
visit; and that you have respectful interactions with local
people and their customs.
People living and working in the places you visit are
responsible for providing a great experience and making
you feel welcome.
What is a Responsible Tourist?
Beware of ‘Green Washing’
An eco-resort is not ‘eco’ just because it
is in a forest. Actually cutting down trees
to make room for cabins is not very ‘eco’
at all!
There are some quick and easy ways to
check whether your holiday destination
really is ‘eco’ rather than just pretending
to be. You can easily check if they are fully
committed and behaving ‘responsibly’
before you spend your money there, by
using this guide.
What does your perfect
holiday destination look like?
You will be glad to know that being a responsible
tourist is not actually very difcult.
In fact, you probably do a number of ‘responsible’
things anyway. For example, ordering the local sh to
eat, rather than just the type you usually eat at home,
might just be an opportunity to try something new and
tasty... and it may also have a lower carbon footprint,
because local food will have travelled less to reach
your plate. Local food is more likely to be fresh, rather
than having been kept in the freezer (using electricity)
for long periods of time. The sh may have been caught
by someone local, who benets from you buying it.
Being responsible simply means being a conscious
traveller. Sometimes you are on holiday to avoid
making tough decisions... but this is not supposed to
be a chore. It often includes simple, sensible actions:
Do things a bit differently:
What makes a responsible holiday?
By simply selecting and enjoying a holiday responsibly
you are actually contributing to a bigger overall change.
Just think about the economics of it... the future supply
of tourism products and services responds to current
demands of travellers like you. So tourism businesses
adapt depending on the requests of their customers.
If more travellers choose the local and sustainably
harvested sh, the restaurants will buy more from local
shermen, and need fewer imported ones. Similarly, if
you choose a holiday that is certied as ‘sustainable’
or ‘responsible,’ other businesses will want to be
followed in order to get more customers - and to be
recognized for their good practices.
So, as you see, you have a lot of inuence within your
two-week vacation!
Buying locally made craft that does not have a “Made in Vietnam” sticker (unless, of course you are
visiting Vietnam!)
Spreading your money around by using a number of different locally run shops and restaurants. Try not
to spend all your money at one business.
Turning off lights and air conditioning when you are not in your room.
Re-using your towel rather than getting it replaced after every wash.
Disposing of your waste in an appropriate way – and not leaving it for someone to pick up, or an animal
to eat.
The Responsible Traveller | Issue 1
Things to do before you travel
Planning a trip that will be environmentally friendly, and that benets the local
destination, can be done very easily. You may want sun, sea and sand – or a wildlife
tour – a city break – or a cultural experience in a remote location.
So whether you’re heading to Norway, New York, or Nepal – you can make travel
decisions that help make the destination better. Once you have decided where you
want to go visit, then you’ll start to look for places to stay, and for things to do there.
Here are 3 easy steps to nding that perfect holiday.
Deciding where to go. Booking a hotel or tour using
an online booking platform,
organised by an agent that
list a range of sustainable
holidays, tour companies,
and places to stay
Booking directly with a hotel
that promotes its sustainable
Travel is a social contract, a mutually
beneficial relationship based on respect.
Deciding where to go
When looking for a place to visit, you may
want to look for places that have worked
to promote good practices in the area as
a whole. These four websites provide a list
of sustainable destinations that have either
received a certication or an award for best
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) hosts a
list and map of travel destinations that have undertaken
an assessment to understand their good practices,
vulnerabilities, and priority areas for improvement
towards sustainability, using the GSTC Criteria for
Green Destinations ® compiles a list of the top
100 sustainable destinations, using open calls on
social media and a selection process guided by 30
international sustainable tourism experts. It is an
initiative of, VISION on Sustainable
Tourism, Totem Tourism and Green Destinations.
BookDifferent have a Green Destinations Rating
program that has assessed around 1000 destinations
against 40 indicators aligned with the GSTC Criteria for
Destinations. They say that they, “…focus on making
travelling more sustainable and socially responsible..”
The National Geographic World Legacy Awards have a
“Destination Leadership” award. You can search their
site for winners each year. The link above takes you to
all of the 2015 winners.
Criteria Systems
Each of these websites will have their own
specic criteria systems, so there may be
variations in results.
We do not favour any particular one of
these. They all have good search engines
and are relatively well trusted by the
The Responsible Traveller | Issue 1
Booking a hotel or
tour using an online
booking platform
More and more online booking platforms
are promoting sustainable holidays.
Some link you with travel agents and
tour operators who will give you travel
information, organize your trip, and
make your bookings. Most of them
also advertise responsible hotels and
tour companies that you can book with
directly, if you prefer.
BookDifferent say that they, “started this ‘different’ hotel
booking website where you can easily nd green hotels
and support a charity every time you book.”
Go Barefoot is, “...driven by a social and environmental
ethos working in partnership with NGOs, co-operatives
and social enterprises to provide more immersive cultural
discoveries and enriching ecotourism adventures, away
from the conventional and commercial tourist circuits.” say, “Our idea is really quite
simple: treat local people and places well, and they’ll
often offer you experiences and insights into their ways
of life that you wouldn’t otherwise get.”
Travelife lists “...partner tour operators that are
committed to providing holidays with more sustainable
hotels, increasing your choice of accommodations that
protect and respect their local environment, the people
who work for them and the local communities where they
World Hotel Link’s mission is to offer “...a unique
online booking service to both travellers and travel
service providers by marrying the best of what can be
done locally...with best practices in global marketing,
technology and information systems that are appropriate
for use in all countries.”
If you want to book directly with the accommodation or tour company,
but company, you’ll rst want to know if they can independently verify
their sustainability claims. There are 100s of certication schemes
and numerous awards programs across the world (which can be a bit
confusing). Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Finding certified enterprises
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) is an international
body for establishing and managing standards for sustainable tourism.
The GSTC recognizes, approves and accredits sustainable tourism
certication bodies that meet or surpass the GSTC Criteria. The GSTC
also lists hotels that have been certied under GSTC approved or
recognized standards.
Currently there are 23 certication
bodies internationally that are
approved or recognized by the
GSTC (see below). One way of
nding your responsible hotel is to
visit their websites, and browse the
hotels and tour operators they have
Booking directly with a hotel
(Austrian Ecolable
for Tourism)
(Great Green Deal)
(Certication for
Sustainable Tourism
(CST) for hotels)
(Sistema de Distincion en
Toruismo Sustentable)
The Responsible Traveller | Issue 1
You can also look for places to stay that have
won international awards for their responsible
practices. Some of the most prestigious
international awards are listed below.
National Geographic’s World Legacy Awards “honor
the companies, organizations, and destinations that
are driving the positive transformation of the tourism
industry, showcasing leaders and visionaries in
sustainable tourism best practices, and sharing their
stories with millions of today's travelers”
The UNWTO Annual Awards celebrate UNWTO
Awards celebrate excellence and innovation in the
tourism sector, recognizing exceptional leaders
in the categories including Enterprises and Non-
governmental Organizations. The contribution of the
awardees is in line with UNWTO´s policies, priorities
and programme of work, including the UNWTO Global
Code of Ethics for Tourism.
The World Responsible Tourism Awards state that they,
“want to celebrate the shining stars of responsible
tourism - the individuals, organisations and destinations
working innovatively with local cultures, communities
and biodiversity.”
The World Travel and Tourism Council’s Tourism for
Tomorrow Awards, “...focus on ve key categories
that have been carefully selected to exemplify how
Travel & Tourism can create signicant economic,
environmental, social and cultural benets on local
people and places.”
Finding international
award winners
for preparing to travel
There are a number of things you can do before you travel to
make your trip as responsible as possible, and which don’t
require a huge amount of effort:
Learn a few words in the local
Making an effort to speak the local language
allows you to interact with the people who
know the site best, and also shows respect.
People really do appreciate your efforts.
Simple words like “Hello,” “Please,” and
“Thank you,” can go a long way. If you make
an attempt, local people will appreciate your
efforts and are more likely to reciprocate.
Explore transport options
Remember that traveling affects the
environment. Wherever possible, try to
minimize your pollution and impact on
the environment by looking to alternative
transportation (e.g. walking, bicycle, horse,
sailing boat), or by visiting places close to
home that can be reached by train or coach.
Where you do need a plane or other motorized
transport, consider compensating for your
carbon dioxide (CO
2) emissions.
Pack light and for a purpose.
It is tempting to pack everything you think
you might need, but remember to be smart
about your necessities. Packaging like the
plastic wrapping of your new toothbrush uses
up space in your bag and can create excess
waste for the destination to deal with. ‘Pack
for a Purpose’ also provides guidance on
how to pack supplies needed by community
projects, in your holiday destination
Find out as much as possible.
The more you know about a place you’re
visiting before arriving, the more that it will
come alive during your trip. Look into the site’s
history, culture, natural environment, customs,
stories, advisory notices using books, the
internet, and experiences of other travellers
(e.g. TripAdvisor).
The Responsible Traveller | Issue 1
So you have decided where you want to go, and
booked your trip and have checked that the facilities
meet with your principles. Well done!
This action has already contributed to the demand
for responsible tourism globally, which will encourage
more businesses to offer and operators to sell
sustainable products and experiences. You are all
ready to go!
Here are some suggestions on making your travel
experience better:
Water is precious in every holiday destination
so use it carefully. Don’t leave taps running, take
showers rather than baths and re-use your towels.
Save energy and cut CO2 by switching off lights,
fans and air conditioning when you are out of your
room. Make sure your appliances are fully turned off
and don’t leave any chargers plugged in when not
in use - this will also protect against damage from
power surges.
Don’t buy souvenirs made from shells, turtle shell,
coral, or any other wildlife - you’ll be contributing
to their exploitation and some of it will be illegal to
bring home. Think carefully before buying hardwood
souvenirs, and whether you can be sure that are
from sustainably harvested forests, and not from
protected or endangered species.
Never go near or feed wildlife you encounter on
your trip. It may not be safe for you, or the animal.
Think before you throw. No-one wants to see your
old plastic bags, bottles and cigarette butts hanging
around for the next 50 years! Take your rubbish to a
bin or back to your hotel (or home) with you.
In natural areas, stay on marked trails, to avoid
damaging plants or wildlife.
Be gentle with sales people. It is easy to feel
pestered by over enthusiastic sales people,
especially if you’re not in the mood for shopping.
Decline politely, or with a sense of humour. Please
don’t be rude - everyone’s trying to make a living
after all!
Get out and explore beyond your hotel! Support the
local economy by sampling regional dishes at locally
owned restaurants, buying locally produced food
and drinks and buying souvenirs that are genuinely
made in the area.
Respect local customs such as covering up away
from the beach and especially in towns, shops and
religious places. You’ll nd you get stared at a lot
less and treated more respectfully by locals.
Relax - you’re on holiday! Don’t get annoyed if
service isn’t quite as efcient as at home. It’s all part
of the experience.
On your holiday
Make holidays greener is a campaign from the Travel Foundation and
Travelife to raise awareness about the importance of cleaner beaches and
how to reduce plastic waste.
PADI’s Project Aware coordinates a Dive against Debris events, to collect
waste during dives, and feedback information on what is found. They also
have a Dive into Action program, where you can make your dive count for
conservation. Check out the maps and events on their site. lists volunteering holidays that provide ethical and
worthwhile placement options. You might book these before you leave home,
but if you arrive somewhere and want to contribute, there are many options
listed on their site.
Pack for a Purpose is an initiative that helps you nd your accommodation
or tour operator, and a project that it supports. You can choose supplies
you want to take from a list requested, and drop the supplies off with the
company. The company then delivers them to the project.
Get involved in local projects
The Responsible Traveller | Issue 1
Choose a certied dive operation with a good
local reputation
Do not distrupt the seabed – it will disturb small
animals and you will see less
Avoid handling, standing on, or knocking coral
by controlling your bouyancy
Actively encourage responsible behaviour of
other divers
Don’t chase the sh – you won’t catch them, and
you’ll use up all your air resulting in a shorter dive
Protect underwater life by supporting marine
protected areas and community managed areas
Take photos responsibly without harassing
wildlife for a better picture, or by blinding them
with your ash. Leave the ocean they way you
found it: No collecting!
Take action – report irresponsible behavior by
other divers or operators
Do not buy corals, shells, sh teeth from shops,
it only encourages further harvesting
If you had a great time and dived with a
responsible operation encourage others to use
the same company. Use your own social media,
or comment on the company’s.
Top Tips for Divers
Walk on designated roads and trails, and walk
in single le, to avoid widening trails
Pay attention to signs, and respect barriers and
fences. Leave gates as you nd them
Avoid walking on sensitve areas, like meadows,
lakeshores, wetlands or streams
Please don’t disturb historical, archaeological,
paleontological or other cultural sites
Pack your rubbish out with you – and pick up
litter left by others
Avoid walking near seasonal nesting or
breeding areas for birds and other wildlife. Also
avoid disturbing livestock.
Use toilets where they are provided, or bury
your waste in a hole 15-20 cm deep, and at least
60 m from water, camps or trails
Before you hike, wash your shoes and other gear
to avoid spreading invasive species
Swim and wash only in designated areas, to
avoid contaminating sensitive waterways
Tread lightly! promotes responsible recreation through
stewardship, communication and education. from shops, it
only encourages further harvesting. They aim to protect and
enhance recreational access and opportunities, by promoting
outdoor ethics to heighten people’s sense of stewardship.
Top Tips for Hikers
Adapted from TreadLightly!
When you get home
• Distribute your responsible travel tips.
In addition to telling family and friends
about the wonderful memories you made,
also consider sharing tips on how they
too can positively impact the World while
having an amazing journey.
• Share your photos. Photos can say a
thousand words. Use your social media
or blog
• Explore more. Traveling is just the start of
learning. Once you return home continue
exploring and being involved with the
issues or region that captured your
attention. Build upon your knowledge
and also learn about another fascinating
• Give back. Traveling often opens your
eyes and heart to something new. You
can continue to preserve our inspirational
destinations for generations to come by
making a donation to a local charity.
The Responsible Traveller | Issue 1
Planning your next trip
The worst feeling about a great holiday is getting home, unpacking, and realizing that you have to go back to
work. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning your next trip!
Two important factors are inuencing how we travel. Firstly, we
are becoming increasingly aware of how our over-consumption is
impacting on the environment. Secondly, the working environment
is becoming even more demanding. Working hours increase
and pressures to perform intensies. We are becoming more
conscious of how precious our leisure time is as well as the need
to extract the greatest value from our holidays whilst minimising
our environmental impact.
If your holiday time is your one big opportunity for the year to
relax, unwind, see the world, experience something new then it
deserves your time and attention to get it right.
See something new, break from the norm, explore, live
Develop a connection with a destination and its people
Learn through conversations with others and observations
Show your children, family and friends the wonder of the natural
and cultural world and why its important to respect it
Most importantly, take a deep breathe, relax and simply be. By
choosing a responsible holiday you have spent your leisure time
making a long-term positive contribution to the world.
Final thoughts...
the way we travel is changing
“We wander for
distraction, but we
travel for fulfillment”
Hilaire Belloc
The Responsible Traveller | Issue 1
Organisation Website url
Austrian Ecolable for Tourism
Biosphere Responsible Tourism
Certication for Sustainable Tourism (CST) for hotels
Eco-certication Maltacation
EcoTourism Australia -Ecotourism standard
EcoTourism Ireland
European Ecotourism Network
Fair Trade Tourism
Global Ecosphere Retreats
Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)
Go Barefoot
GREAT Green Deal
Green Destinations
Green Globe
Green Growth 2050
Green Key Global
Green Star Hotel
Hoteles Verdes
Japan Ecolodge Association
National Geographic World Legacy Awards
Rainforest Alliance
Sistema de Distincion en Toruismo Sustentable
Sustainable Tourism Eco-certication program (STEP)
10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme
TOFTigers PUG Eco-rating certication
UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism
World Hotel Link
World Travel and Tourism Council - Tourism for
Tomorrow Awards
The Responsible
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.