Responsible tourism is a term used to describe a way of traveling that minimizes any negative social, economic, cultural or environmental impact in the country being visited. In addition, responsible tourism attempts to boost these sectors, by creating a space for positive exchanges between locals and tourists.
Responsible tourism is more than a form of tourism; it is a behavior and a mindset that acknowledges the responsibility of the tourist to give back to the country he or she has been welcomed into. Although there are varying degrees of responsible tourism that depend on the country and the goals of the governments and incoming tourists, the underlying principles of responsible tourism were chartered in Cape Town in 2002, and the goals remain similar throughout the world.
In 2012, the Tourism sector employed 553,500 people in Nepal, and the number is growing. Still, since Nepal opened its borders in 1950 tourism has inevitably lead to an increase in pollution, urbanization, and environmental degradation. The Nepalese government is attempting to alleviate some of the damage done by working with the development partners and implementing tourism practices that promote the country’s social, economic, and environmental sustainability.
But these initiatives are of little use if visitors do not take these principles to heart. Nepal Rural Tourism asks its participants to please internalize the principles of responsible tourism during their home stay in Nepal and beyond. Being mindful of one’s actions while in a foreign country can only be beneficial!
As an organization we do our best to support rural communities and ensure that our practices comply with the values of responsible tourism, and we encourage guests to do the same. Here are some guidelines on how to be a responsible tourist while traveling/visiting in Nepal specifically:
- Please inform yourself of and respect Nepalese culture, politics, and social expectations before your arrival in the country.
- If you are unsure about a particular custom and how you should be responding, please ask your host family. Do not assume or try to guess what is appropriate, respectfully asking is always preferable.
- When visiting holy places, ask before entering. Many times you will be permitted to enter, but some temples are solely for practitioners.
- Always ask before taking someone’s photograph or photographing a holy site.
- While traveling throughout Nepal, help sustain local business by favoring businesses that conserve cultural heritage and traditional values. For example, support local restaurants and other businesses catered toward the western tourist. When thinking of buying souvenirs for friends and family back home, consider buying crafts made locally.
- When purchasing food goods during your stay, give preference to local produce rather than imported goods, to minimize your carbon footprint.
- When considering traveling to Nepal, it is important to note that not all dietary needs can be met. People who practice a gluten-free or vegetarian diet may find it difficult to maintain a balanced diet. However, the Nepalese diet consists primarily of Dal Bhat, white rice and lentils, and is very nutritious.
- Do not buy goods made from endangered species or ancient artifacts as it will only encourage sellers to continue this line of work.
- Do your best to ensure that the businesses you are supporting are environmentally conscious. The greener, the better! It is always best if companies have a written environmental policy. It is also important to know how many local people they employ, and how they treat water waste.
- Please, use water sparingly! Clean water is a precious resource in Nepal and should not be taken for granted.
- Avoid bringing things with you that will contribute to local pollution. Bring as few plastic bags, disposable water bottles and toiletries, wrappers, and the like from your home country. Instead, try to bring things that you will keep with you. If you do need disposable items, do your best to purchase them in Nepal, so that you are not bringing waste into the country.
- Be mindful! Keep in mind that the goal is to give back to the local communities, and fulfill our social and environmental responsibilities. During your stay, Nepal will be your new home, just remember to treat it as such by integrating your quotidian practices as best you can!
All it takes to be a responsible tourist is a little more attention to detail. With the Nepal’s future in mind, through your mindfulness local communities will benefit through economic development, job creation, and a positive rapport between local people and responsible tourists.