The beginner's guide to responsible and sustainable travel

September 12, 2019

Ann Davis shares simple yet effective tips to reduce the harmful impact we have on travel destinations

Since time immemorial, humans have loved to travel. Be it to broaden one’s horizons, get immersed in a new culture or relax, the nomad within us always craves new adventures.

While travel offers plenty in experiences, we need to be mindful of the impact we have on the locals and the environment. Sustainable travel helps us enjoy our trips with minimal negative social, economic and environmental impacts. The ideal is to travel sustainably and with a positive impact.

Millennials who are travellers are rising in number with each passing year. The United Nations reported that 20% of international tourists, approximately 200 million travellers, are young people. In 2017 alone, millennials have spent over $50.4 billion in travel. This has not only aided the tourism and hospitality sectors but also generated jobs for locals in other related industries.

However, with over-tourism comes several negative effects.

When there are too many tourists in a destination, it results in over-tourism, affecting social, natural, cultural, environmental and other aspects of the locality.

So, how do we then ensure that tourists travel responsibly?

Responsible Tourism

As travellers, we ought to be aware of our influence. For instance, let’s take camping as an example since it is rising in popularity, especially among millennials. When we set up a campfire or dispose of garbage at a campsite, we sometimes forget that this can potentially harm the wildlife and even plants. However, do we prioritize the conservation of the environment over our convenience and comfort? How many of us avoid using plastic bags and reduce our daily waste while camping?

It is time that we recognize the damage that we have done to our tourist destinations and step up to protect the locals and their homes. One way to do that is to adopt sustainable practices. Thankfully, millennials are leading from the front, as they are 78% more likely to buy and use sustainable products.

Here are some more tips on how to engage in sustainable and responsible travel!

Before your trip:

  1. Choose a destination committed to sustainable tourism
  2. Air travel is one of the greatest contributors to carbon emission. So, get a direct flight to your destination instead of internal flights
  3. Choose a small community homestay instead of a hotel room
  4. Spend at local shops and restaurants rather than retail chains. This will bring more economic benefits to lower-income tiers
  5. Bring eco-friendly items
  • Muslin cloth instead of wet tissues
  • Solar-powered devices over gadgets that use disposable batteries
  • Pack items in travel-sized reusable storage instead of plastic bags and single-use containers

6. Learn a few phrases of the language. Download a translation app on your phone or carry a phrasebook.

Checking local crafts in Medellin

During your trip:

  1. Purchase local and organic products
  • Support local communities and livelihood opportunities
  • Select produce that needs less fuel for transportation and refrigeration

2. Create meaningful bonds with the locals to share and learn from each other’s culture and life experiences. Use the services they offer whenever possible and help sustain their livelihood.

3. Disconnect to connect: Minimize/avoid the virtual world. Be present, especially during your engagement with the locals.

4. Respect local culture, traditions and values: Even if you may not follow any of your own, learn to respect local customs.

5. Use public transportation, or bike or walk when possible.

6. Encourage other tourists to engage in sustainable tourism. Sometimes, all it takes is to spread the word.

After the trip:

  1. Observe and comment
  • Provide feedback to tourism-related organizations on how they can better push sustainable tourism forward.
  • Share your opinion if you notice any exploitative and unethical business in the country

2. Share your sustainable tourism story to your loved ones and highlight the importance of sustainable tourism

3. Long term friendships: Keep in touch with the friends you made overseas and connect them with your friends and family when they visit. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way.

4. Donate or support efforts: If you can support monetarily or with your time to further a local-cause, do not hesitate to do so.

Sustainable tourism ensures that while we enjoy what the tourist destinations have to offer, we also take some time and effort to minimize the negative economic, social and environmental impacts that we potentially impose on the locals.

The more mindful we are of our actions, the better tourists we become. After all, we are not individuals living in different countries, we are individuals from different countries coming together to make the world sustainable!


About Ann Davis:

After surviving cancer and subsequently traveling to over 40 countries in her 20’s, Ann found her most valuable and fulfilling travel experiences to be the instances when she stayed in one place, and worked with the local population — forming relationships and learning about their culture in the process. In 2016, Ann founded Venture with Impact with the dream that working professionals could share these experiences while still working their jobs.


Ann Davis is a class host at NewCampus. If you are excited to learn about our changing world from classhosts like Ann, sign up for the NewCampus membership here. For any other questions, reach out to us at We love hearing from you!