At Discovery Travel, our commitment to sustainable tourism extends beyond benefiting the local environment and communities—we want to enhance your travel experience while minimizing your footprint on the planet. As responsible travellers, it’s essential to be mindful of our actions and choices. Here’s a guide to responsible travel that not only contributes to the well-being of the destinations you visit but also enhances your journey.
14 top tips for responsible travellers
Travel is an amazing experience. But is important to ensure that our dream holiday doesn’t become a nighmare for local people, or the environment. Here are 14 top tips to help you travel responsibly.
1. Choose Wisely
For Example: Select accommodations, like a locally owned eco-friendly resorts in Khao Lak, that focus on sustainable practices. Instead of hotels owned bvy large international chains.
By selecting accommodations and businesses that prioritize sustainability, travelers can support local communities, protect natural environments, and promote ethical tourism practices, ensuring a more authentic and responsible travel experience.
Enjoy comfortable stays while supporting businesses that prioritize environmental and social responsibility. This both helps to enhance the local economy and encourages other businesses to adopt sustainable practices.
2. Tread Lightly
Opting for eco-friendly activities and transportation options allows you to explore destinations in a way that respects the environment, offering a more authentic and pristine experience for you to enjoy.
Participating in activities like ATV tours through sensitive ecosystems can cause soil erosion, disruption of wildlife habitats, and destruction of vegetation, leading to long-term damage to the environment and loss of biodiversity.
Research published in the Journal of Environmental Management highlights the adverse impacts of off-road vehicle use on soil erosion and vegetation loss in fragile ecosystems. While The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports that habitat destruction and fragmentation due to recreational activities like ATV tours threaten biodiversity hotspots worldwide, including in Southeast Asia.
For Example: Opt for guided nature walks in the Khao Sok National Park instead of motorized tours. This allows you to experience the natural beauty up close while minimizing the environmental impact on delicate ecosystems, such as avoiding disturbance to wildlife habitats. Not having a noisy engine can also increase your chances of spotting wildlife.
Choosing low-impact activities and transportation options helps minimize environmental degradation, preserves delicate ecosystems, and ensures future generations can enjoy the natural beauty of the destination, promoting sustainable tourism for long-term enjoyment. It can also help to reduce your carbon footprint while travelling.
3. Be Informed
Learning about the local nature, history, and culture beforehand enhances your understanding and connection to the places you visit, making your travel experiences more immersive and meaningful.
Ignorance of local customs and traditions may result in disrespectful behavior, such as wearing inappropriate clothing at religious sites, causing offense to the local community, and perpetuating negative stereotypes about tourists.
Cultural insensitivity can lead to negative perceptions of tourists and destination backlash. For example, in 2017, Chinese tourists faced backlash in Thailand for disrespectful behavior, including inappropriate attire at religious sites, leading to calls for cultural awareness training for tourists before they arrive in Thailand.
A survey by Booking.com found that 65% of travelers believe it’s important to learn about local customs and culture before traveling to a new destination to avoid unintentional disrespect.
For Example: Before visiting the Similan Islands, read about their marine biodiversity. This knowledge enhances your appreciation of the underwater world, making your snorkeling or diving experience more immersive and rewarding, as you are able to pick out interesting or rare species.
Follow local customs when visiting the temples in Takuapa Old Town. This ensures a seamless and respectful experience, allowing you to fully engage with the local culture. It also fosters positive interactions with locals and avoids unintentional cultural misunderstandings. Being able to interact well with the local people, will help you have a truly immersive experience. Without the risk of causing offense.
4. Respect Local Guidelines
Following local guidelines ensures a smooth and enjoyable journey, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the culture and activities without any disruptions. Following local customs and guidelines demonstrates respect for the host community, promotes positive interactions with locals, and helps travelers navigate cultural differences, fostering mutual understanding and appreciation.
Disregarding local regulations, such as littering in protected areas or feeding wildlife, can lead to ecosystem degradation, disturbance of natural behaviors, and conflicts with local authorities, resulting in fines, restrictions, or even bans on tourist activities.
Research published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism highlights the detrimental effects of tourist behavior, such as littering and wildlife disturbance, on protected areas and the need for enforcement of regulations to mitigate these impacts. Incidents of tourists disregarding local regulations have resulted in fines and restrictions.
For example, in 2019, tourists were fined for littering in the Similan Islands Marine National Park in Thailand, prompting stricter enforcement measures.
For Example: In the Khao Sok National Park, visitors are required to stay on marked trails during guided hikes to minimize disturbance to wildlife and vegetation.
Adhering to these guidelines, means that tourists are able to experience the park’s biodiversity while minimizing their impact on the ecosystem. Additionally, respecting wildlife viewing regulations, such as maintaining a safe distance from animals and avoiding feeding them, ensures the animals’ well-being and natural behaviors are preserved.
By respecting local guidelines, tourists contribute to the conservation of natural habitats, support the local economy through park entrance fees, and promote responsible tourism practices that benefit both the environment and local communities.
5. Privacy and Photography:
Obtaining permission before capturing moments respects the privacy of individuals and the cultural significance of sites, contributing to a more respectful and harmonious travel experience.
Taking photos of individuals without consent, especially in sensitive cultural contexts, can violate privacy rights, create discomfort or hostility among locals, and contribute to the commodification of culture, undermining authentic cultural exchanges.
The rise of social media and digital photography has increased concerns about privacy and consent. According to a survey by Pew Research Center, 64% of Americans say taking photos or videos in public places without permission is generally unacceptable.
Incidents of privacy violations by tourists have sparked confrontations. For example, in 2018, tourists faced criticism for taking selfies with indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest without consent, raising ethical concerns about consent and exploitation.
For Example: Seek permission before taking photos of the Moken people living on the Surin Islands. This respect for privacy encourages positive interactions, and you may capture the essence of daily life without intruding. Respecting local privacy helps to avoid potential exploitation of cultural practices.
Imagine if the table were turned. How would you feel about people taking your photograph without your premission as you go about your daily life?
6. Support Local Businesses
Choosing multinational chains over local businesses can lead to economic leakage, where profits leave the destination without benefiting the local economy, resulting in reduced opportunities for local entrepreneurs and limited support for community development initiatives. Buying from local businesses introduces you to authentic products and experiences, providing you with unique and high-quality souvenirs that carry the true essence of the destination.
Patronizing businesses that exploit local labor, such as paying low wages or ignoring worker rights, perpetuates inequality and social injustice, exacerbating poverty and undermining community well-being and economic development.
Research by Oxfam International found that workers in the tourism industry, particularly in developing countries, often face low wages, long hours, and poor working conditions, contributing to the cycle of poverty and inequality.
Exploitative labor practices in the tourism industry have been documented globally. For example, a report by Human Rights Watch highlighted cases of exploitation and abuse of migrant workers in the hospitality sector in countries like Thailand, including non-payment of wages and confiscation of passports.
For example: Dine at family-owned seafood restaurants in Phang Nga Bay. Enjoy authentic flavours while directly contributing to the livelihoods of local fishermen and preserving the culinary heritage.
Eating in locally owned restaurants also supports the local economy and helps to give you a more authentic experience. Not only this, but buying locally can also help to treduce your carbon footprint, reduce traffic and waste.
Choosing to spend money at locally-owned businesses directly benefits the local economy, supports community development, preserves cultural authenticity, and creates opportunities for meaningful cultural exchanges, contributing to sustainable and inclusive tourism growth.
7. Mindful Giving
Inquiring about responsible ways to give ensures that your gestures have a positive impact, allowing you to connect with local communities in a meaningful and mutually beneficial way.
However, The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children reports that donating to orphanages or charity organizations without proper vetting can perpetuate the orphanage tourism industry, incentivizing the separation of children from their families for financial gain, leading to institutionalization and psychological harm to children.
Studies by organizations like Save the Children and UNICEF highlight the detrimental effects of institutional care on children’s physical, emotional, and psychological development, including increased risk of abuse, neglect, and developmental delays.
For Example: Instead of giving money directly, consider contributing to community-based projects, such as supporting educational initiatives for local children in the Ban Nam Khem village.
Your donation could fund school supplies, books, or even extracurricular activities, ensuring a positive impact on the community’s education and future. Empowering local communities promotes sustainable development, and creates a brighter future for the younger generations.
That said, it is important to ensure that your donations are providing the benefits you intended. So be sure to do some research first.
8. Say No to Harmful Purchases
Refraining from supporting harmful practices not only protects the environment but also ensures that your purchases align with your values, contributing to a more conscious and guilt-free travel experience.
Purchasing souvenirs made from endangered species, such as ivory or coral products, fuels illegal wildlife trade, contributes to species decline, and undermines conservation efforts, resulting in ecological imbalance and loss of biodiversity.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), illegal wildlife trade is a major threat to biodiversity, with millions of plants and animals trafficked annually for products like ivory, coral, and exotic pets. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulates trade in endangered species, but illegal trade persists due to high demand for wildlife products, including souvenirs purchased by tourists.
For example: Avoid purchasing products made from shells, corals and other marine species. By choosing responsibly sourced souvenirs, you contribute to marine conservation efforts and ensure your mementos are ethically produced. Purchasing items made from marine species contributes to environmental degradation and threatens marine life.
9. Responsible Buying from Children
Being cautious about buying from children helps you avoid inadvertently supporting exploitation, allowing you to engage in ethical and responsible travel practices.
Purchasing goods from child vendors can perpetuate the cycle of poverty, incentivize child labor, and hinder children’s access to education and opportunities for a better future, ultimately contributing to the exploitation and marginalization of vulnerable populations.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 152 million children worldwide engaged in child labor, with many working in hazardous conditions, including street vending and begging, which expose them to exploitation, abuse, and trafficking.
Studies by organizations like UNICEF and Human Rights Watch highlight the negative impacts of child labor on children’s health, education, and well-being, including increased risk of injuries, malnutrition, and psychological trauma.
For example, In the fishing villages near Khao Lak, tourists can engage with children through responsible activities like visiting local schools to learn about traditional fishing techniques or participating in cultural workshops led by community members. By supporting educational initiatives, such as donating school supplies or sponsoring extracurricular activities, tourists provide opportunities for children to thrive and learn valuable skills while respecting their rights and dignity.
By engaging in responsible interactions with children, tourists foster positive relationships with local communities, support their educational and cultural development, and contribute to sustainable tourism practices that prioritize the well-being of children and promote long-term community resilience.For Example: Instead of buying from child vendors, engage in cultural exchanges with local families in the villages near Khao Lak, such as Ban Talae Nok. Learn about traditional crafts from adult artisans, ensuring your purchases support responsible practices. This helps to promote ethical tourism and discourages the exploitation of child labour.
10. Waste Reduction
Minimizing waste and using reusable items not only benefits the environment but also ensures a more organized and hassle-free travel experience for you. Disposing of single-use plastics irresponsibly, such as leaving trash on beaches or dumping waste in water bodies, pollutes the environment, harms marine life, and degrades natural habitats, resulting in ecological damage and reduced tourism appeal.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, around 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the world’s oceans every year, with devastating impacts on marine ecosystems, including entanglement, ingestion, and habitat destruction.
Marine litter, including plastic debris, negatively affects coastal and marine tourism by degrading scenic beauty, damaging ecosystems, and posing health risks to tourists and wildlife, leading to economic losses and reputational damage for destinations.
For Example: Bring a reusable water bottle and say no to single-use plastics during boat trips to Khao Na Yak. Not only does this reduce waste, but it also ensures you stay hydrated during your exploration. It also helps to reduce environmental pollution and encourages others to adopt more sustainable practices.
Of course, on all of our Khao Lak tours, reusable water bottles and food packaging are provided as standard. But unfortunately, it this is not the case everywhere.
11. Waterwise Travel
Being conscious of water usage allows you to contribute to the sustainability of the local ecosystem while ensuring that water scarcity doesn’t disrupt your travel plans. In some destinmations, hotels and tourist activities have beeen directly linked to droughts and water shortages for local communities. Esspecially in hot coutries that often go for long periods without rain.
Staying at hotels with excessive water usage, such as daily linen and towel changes regardless of guest preferences, contributes to water scarcity, strains local water resources, and increases energy consumption for water treatment, leading to environmental degradation and social conflicts over water access.
According to the World Bank, water scarcity affects more than 40% of the global population, with increasing demand for water resources due to population growth, urbanization, and tourism exacerbating water stress in many regions.
Excessive water consumption by hotels and tourists can deplete local water sources, exacerbate water shortages for local communities, agriculture, and ecosystems, and contribute to conflicts over water access and allocation in water-stressed regions.
For Example: In Khao Lak, tourists can stay at eco-friendly resorts that have implemented water-saving measures, such as collecting rainwater for irrigation or installing water-efficient toilets and showers. By patronizing these accommodations, tourists not only reduce their water footprint but also support businesses that prioritize sustainability and contribute to the preservation of local water resources.
Additionally, tourists can participate in water conservation efforts by practicing responsible water usage during their stay, such as reusing towels and linens, taking shorter showers, and reporting any leaks or water wastage to hotel staff.
By choosing waterwise accommodations and practicing responsible water usage, tourists demonstrate their commitment to environmental stewardship, support local businesses that prioritize sustainability, and contribute to the preservation of precious water resources in the Khao Lak region.
12. Energy Conservation
Saving energy reduces your carbon footprint and promotes a more sustainable travel experience, while also contributing to a smoother journey with fewer environmental impacts.
The tourism industry is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for around 8% of global emissions, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with energy use in accommodations being a major source of emissions.
Climate change poses significant risks to tourism destinations, including increased temperatures, extreme weather events, sea-level rise, and ecosystem degradation, impacting natural attractions, infrastructure, and livelihoods, and threatening the sustainability of tourism. In otherwords, destroying the very things that keep tourism alive.
For Example: Stay at eco-friendly accommodations in Khao Lak that have energy-efficient practices, such as solar-powered facilities. This not only minimizes your carbon footprint but also contributes to sustainable energy solutions and reduces reliance on non-renewable energy sources, mitigating environmental impact.
By staying at these accommodations, you can support businesses that prioritize environmental sustainability and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Additionally, you can participate in energy conservation efforts during your stay by minimizing energy usage, such as turning off lights and air conditioning when not in use.
13. Support Climate Action
Advocating for climate change action aligns your travel experiences with global efforts to protect the planet, providing a sense of purpose and fulfilment during your journeys.
Ignoring sustainable transportation options and opting for high-emission modes of travel, such as long-haul flights without carbon offsets, increases greenhouse gas emissions, accelerates climate change, and exacerbates environmental crises, threatening the sustainability of destinations and livelihoods of local communities.
Aviation accounts for about 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), with emissions from air travel projected to increase significantly in the coming decades without mitigation measures.
For Example: Participate in local mangrove planting projects in Baan Tha Din Daeng and in other places around Khao Lak. Contribute to climate action efforts while making a positive impact on the local ecosystem. This helps to counteract the carbon footprint of your travels and supports environmental conservation.
By actively participating in these initiatives, you contribute to reforestation efforts, enhance biodiversity, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Additionally, tourists can support climate action by reducing their carbon footprint through eco-friendly transportation options, such as biking or using public or shared transportation, and minimizing waste generation through recycling and composting.
By participating in local climate action initiatives and adopting sustainable practices, tourists contribute to building climate resilience in the Khao Lak region, support conservation efforts, and promote environmental stewardship for future generations.
14. Provide Feedback
Sharing your thoughts not only helps us improve our services but also allows you to actively contribute to the enhancement of future travel experiences, ensuring that your voice is heard and valued.
Failing to provide feedback on negative experiences or unsustainable practices perpetuates harmful behaviors, prevents improvement in tourism operations, and hinders the adoption of responsible tourism practices, resulting in continued negative impacts on destinations and communities.
Research published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism suggests that feedback and reviews play a crucial role in influencing tourists’ perceptions and behaviors, with negative reviews highlighting areas for improvement and encouraging businesses to adopt more sustainable practices.
Without constructive feedback, businesses may continue to prioritize profit over sustainability, leading to negative social, environmental, and economic impacts on destinations and communities, undermining long-term sustainability and resilience.
For Example: Share your experiences and suggestions with Discovery Travel after exploring the mangrove forests around Khao Lak. Your feedback helps us to improve our services and ensures future travellers can enjoy even more responsible and fulfilling journeys.
Help guide tour operators such as us in adopting better sustainable practices and enhances the overall travel experience for future adventurers.
Let’s explore together
By incorporating these responsible travel tips and examples into your Discovery Travel experiences in Khao Lak, Phang Nga, and the surrounding areas, you contribute to the preservation of this unique region while enjoying a more authentic and meaningful journey. Let’s embark on responsible travels together, creating positive memories for both you and the places you explore.