How to become a better traveler in 2021 and beyond

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As we contemplate post-pandemic travel, industry experts are sharing their advice on becoming a more conscious traveler.

For years, travel websites and magazines have distributed tips on how to be a responsible traveler. Experts encouraged travelers to shop and eat locally, embrace the culture of a destination, respect nature, and take the time to understand a country’s traditions. Recently, many eco-friendly practices have also appeared on these lists, explaining the harmful effects of overtourism, the need for clean sunscreen, and how to avoid unethical animal experiences.

As people contemplate traveling in a post-pandemic world, we’re redefining what it means to travel better in 2021 by sharing a list of ways to consciously travel after the devastation caused by COVID-19. If we want to rebuild better, we need to put more emphasis on immersive and sustainable vacations that evoke empathy for the planet and all of its beings.

Make travel decisions knowing that not all countries have recovered from COVID

Travel can provide you with comfort after the isolation and heartbreak of 2020, and in turn, help savings that have dried up. However, not all countries are ready to entertain tourists yet. Victoria Walker, Senior Travel Journalist for The guy at the points, advises people to research the current COVID-19 situation and vaccination rates. In the USA, more than 50% of adults have been fully immunized, but she reminds us that some countries could take years to catch up.

“This means that your interactions with residents should be done with the knowledge that you might come into contact with unvaccinated people who are much more at risk than you,” says Walker. “You will want to err on the side of caution, avoid large crowds, and wear a mask.”

Kelley Louise, Founder and CEO of the Impact Travel Alliance, urges travelers to make sure they are visiting a destination where locals genuinely want travelers to come. “Their safety is just as important as yours,” adds Louise.

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Find out and follow local guidelines

Every country, state, city has its own guidelines for dealing with COVID-19. Jeremy Scott Foster, founding editor of TravelFreak, advises that “travelers should be aware of and respect the rules and restrictions put in place by the government. Whether it’s entry requirements, quarantine, mask guidelines or curfew. We, as a global community, must come together to make travel a safe and accessible activity. “

Research entry requirements, mask warrants, social distancing protocols, and curfews before traveling and prepare accordingly. In the United States, unvaccinated travelers should wear a mask while vaccinated people can be maskless in most situations, but everyone should still wear them on buses, trains, and airplanes. In Europe, countries like France, Greece and Italy have nighttime curfews, while Denmark requires people to show a travel pass to access cinemas, museums and restaurants. By July 22, European countries will introduce digital vaccination certificates to make travel accessible to those who have been vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative.

Hotels may also have their own rules. Sonu Shivdasani, Founder and CEO of Soneva, explains: “At Soneva [in the Maldives], we test all clients on arrival using our own PCR testing machine, and clients are welcome to self-isolate in the privacy of their villa until we receive the results. Ask your hotel or resort what measures they have in place and what you need to do for a comfortable stay.

When choosing hotels, go beyond certification

Justin Francis, co-founder and CEO of the activist vacation company, Responsible travel, recommends that travelers choose eco-friendly accommodation without being bothered by “sustainable” hotel certificates.

“It’s fine if a place has done away with plastic straws, but if you want to know how responsible and sustainable your hosting or carrier really is and the progress they’re making, you’ll usually have to dig a little deeper,” explains Francis. “Does it use renewable energy? Where does it source its products and how does it limit the waste of food and water? In what ways does it support and work? it with the local community? What actions has it taken to restore and protect the local environment? Do they have responsible tourism policies?

You should do your own research when choosing a place to stay. Confusing terminology and labels trick travelers into believing that a business cares about the environment, but it could just be a marketing ploy. Experts have warned people against greenwashing and the misleading claims used by hotels and lodges to misrepresent their eco-initiatives. Francois wrote on how to tell the difference between real sustainability efforts and buzzwords.

Randy Durband, CEO of the World Sustainable Travel Council (a non-profit organization that sets and manages global sustainability standards known as the GSTC criteria – the minimum that a hotel, destination, or business should do to address sustainability) recommends seeking certification from hotel.

“Considering certification is a good thing to push hotels towards [sustainability] by hearing their guests say that they are looking for it, but also ask specific or general questions about their purchasing practices, energy management, social responsibility in hiring and supporting their communities ”, explains Durband.

Look for ways to reduce your footprint

Impact Travel Alliance is a strong advocate for sustainable tourism, and Louise stresses that responsible travel doesn’t have to be about faraway destinations and off-grid experiences. “You can incorporate social and ecological travel into any trip, no matter your destination, budget or style,” suggests Louise. “As we rethink travel, we can reshape the narrative of sustainable tourism and show how it relates to better immersive experiences for us and the world. “

Start with slow journeys and transformative experiences. It may be a good idea to avoid overcrowded tourist attractions and animal exploitation experiences. You can travel close to home and explore your own backyards, an opportunity that 2020 has brought us. Francis of Responsible Travel also advocates longer vacations instead of many mini-breaks.

“When we fly, there are ways to reduce our carbon impact. Each item in an aircraft increases the carbon emitted: packing less and traveling economically lightens our load, ”explains Francis. “If you can, avoid taking internal flights and find ways to get around. You’re more likely to run into locals when using public transportation, renting bikes, or walking, and electric taxis and rentals are becoming more common.

GaudiLab / Shutterstock

Focus on reducing carbon versus buying offsets

Carbon offsetting makes travelers feel better on the plane, but these voluntary programs remain shrouded in doubt and are often criticized by environmentalists. Buying compensation does not mean that your flight has no impact on the environment or that your money will go to genuine conservation efforts.

Francis explains that a stay with a flight can be neither negative nor carbon neutral. “Not all compensation programs are created equal, some are indeed better than others. But it is also very important to remember that, however, they are marketed, they do not cancel the impacts of our flights. When we fly, these impacts are immediate and long term; compensating for them is not.

Travelers should focus on reducing their carbon emissions, in addition to supporting conservation initiatives. “Until it’s sustainable, we need to fly less and support biodiversity by restoring nature and consuming less meat and dairy products,” explains Francis.

You can calculate your carbon footprint with apps like Capture or TerraPass. When traveling, you can opt for hotels that use renewable energy, take non-stop flights, rent an electric car or use public transportation, eat local foods, and cut down on waste. While buy offsets, be sure to look for those that are proven to help the environment.

Empathize with the flight crew

Air rage has increased enormously, and unfortunately, flight attendants are faced with unruly and violent behavior on a daily basis. Please be very considerate as they have a hard time with passengers throwing abuse and even going up to throwing punches.

Show respect to all airport personnel, including pilots, flight attendants and ground personnel. Listen to in-flight announcements. Keep your mask on even if you are vaccinated. Do not give them your dirty tissues and wipes directly, throw them in the trash bag. And as always, wait to get off the plane. Your patience and kindness can make their job easier.

Maridav / Shutterstock

Support local businesses

It is more important than ever to help small businesses that have been affected by the pandemic. “Travel with a local operator who employs local guides with a fair wage,” suggests Francis. “Stay in self-catering accommodation or even homestays, and eat in local restaurants and markets. Not only will you contribute directly to the economy, but you’ll also be rewarded with local knowledge of where to eat and the best places to visit off the tourist trail.

Tip generously

The past year has been tough for everyone, especially hospitality professionals. The baristas have lost their jobs. The drivers had no passengers. Restaurants and stores have been forced to close. The artists found themselves without an audience or buyers. If you are lucky enough to travel this year, tip generously, as the trip depends on the many people – from tour guides and drivers to concierges – who make it happen.

Traveling for good

Can travel make the world more inclusive? Kelley Louise of Impact Travel Alliance thinks so. “We’ve heard a lot about diversity and inclusion in the headlines, and travel experiences are a great way to practice anti-racism,” says Louise. “Whether you’re immersing yourself in history with a tour that goes beyond traditional history books, or supporting a restaurant owned by various groups, supporting under-represented voices through immersive experiences is a great way. to advocate for a more inclusive world. ”


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