Magazine article Geographical

25 Practical Ways to Make a Difference

Magazine article Geographical

25 Practical Ways to Make a Difference

Article excerpt

1 Shop and eat locally According to Tourism Concern, 70-85 per cent of tourist revenue 'leaks' abroad because it's Captured by foreign-owned hotels or tour companies. Only 1.2 per cent of mountaineering-expedition expenditure remains in Nepali mountain communities. Try to buy things from local craftspeople and eat in locally owned restaurants away from your hotel. Buy local produce in preference to imported goods. Avoid all-inclusive tour packages, even if they seem cheap--these packages exclude local people from the tourism economy and your savings will likely be at someone else's expense.

2 Read up beforehand Find out a little about your destination before travelling. Not only will this enable you to make more informed decisions about where to go and what to see, but having an idea of the political and social context of a place will reduce the likelihood of your unknowingly colluding in human-rights abuses or environmental destruction. And having something to talk about is a good way to meet local people and establish a rapport.

3 Use public transport Don't automatically hire a car when you arrive abroad-using public transport is better environmentally as well as a good way to meet people. You should also consider hiring bikes or walking.

4 Do you really need that overseas holiday? You may be missing some amazing sights closer to home, and avoiding long-distance travel is inevitably easier on the environment.

5 Giving gifts Ask a guide's advice on what gifts to take to a village or into someone's home. As a rule of thumb, it's usually better to give school materials (such as pens or pencils) or local food treats than sugary sweets that may rot children's teeth or encourage them to beg. Try to funnel gifts and donations through the village leader or household head, so as not to upset traditional patterns of authority.

6 Special events Be careful not to visit traditional communities during sacred festivals at which outsiders may not be welcome--however photogenic the people may be. If you must intrude, avoid wandering in on your own and instead find a guide who speaks the local language and can negotiate permission on your behalf. Find out appropriate ways to behave and to show appreciation to your hosts.

7 Low-impact travel Avoid flights whenever possible. Air travel is the most polluting form of transport, and the fastest-growing contributor to global warming. For shorter journeys--such as those within Europe--train travel isn't only the greener option, but can also make for a more interesting journey. As the saying goes, with the train your holiday begins on departure, with the plane it begins on arrival. * More information: www.rcep.org.uk/avreport.html;www.seat61.com

8 Photography Eighty per cent of people in a UK poll said they'd object if rich foreign tourists came and took their photo without permission. Ask first, and if the person you want to photograph looks away or says 'no', then refrain. Be careful not to use flash photography inside museums or places where it could damage fragile surfaces and pigments. Some traditional societies believe that photography is damaging, especially to children. Respect their feelings. And don't make promises you won't keep. As local people in Chiang Rai, a hilltribe village in northern Thailand, said: "Tourists stick cameras in our faces and promise they'll send the photos back, but they never do."

9 Local language Learn a few words and phrases in the local language beforehand. This will show willingness on your part and is a good way to break the ice. After all, communicating and making friends with local people is one of the most rewarding aspects of being abroad.

10 Observe local dress rules Make sure to respect the local culture and attitudes towards clothing. As one Gambian stallholder complained: "They walk in their bikinis through the market or streets during Ramadan, sometimes right next to a man who is praying, It's not nice, it's not normal for us. …

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