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With the first week in May designated as National Travel and Tourism Week, it seemed the perfect opportunity to write a post about how to be a good tourist. Additionally, May 6 is National Tourist Appreciation Day while May 7 is National Tourism Day.
Tourism and tourists are linked, of course. Tourists travel to places away from their homes, for pleasure. Tourism caters to and offers services to those travelers.
As travel cautiously opens back up, after two years of a world wide pandemic, it’s good to remember that we have a responsibility to the places we visit and the people that live there.
How to Be a Good Tourist
Whether you call yourself a traveler, an adventurer or a tourist when journeying to a destination away from your hometown, it’s important to remember that you arrive as a guest.
Just as you’d mind your manners when visiting in the home of a new friend, being mindful while traveling creates good experiences for everyone.
On your next trip, use these tips to be a good tourist.
While in a different city or country, show respect for the people who live there and their culture and traditions. Before the trip, do thorough research. Follow curiosity. What customs differ from your city or country? Honor those.
Interact with the people there. Ask questions and then listen to their answers and stories. Stay open minded and willing to learn new things. And if a sign says “Don’t touch”, then don’t touch! Obey the rules. Leave prejudices, judgments and limiting beliefs at home.
Tip: Before you go, learn to correctly pronounce city and/or country names. A Scottish friend of mine gently corrected my pronunciation of Glasgow, in Scotland. (It’s glaz go.) I’m so grateful he did! Take the time to learn.
Contribute to the Local Economy
While visiting your chosen destination, stay in local accommodations. Eat at local restaurants, shop local, visit area markets, use local tour guides. The money you spend supports the economy and those who work and live in the community.
Favor the independently owned establishments, over franchises and big box brands, when possible, to keep those dollars local.
Tip: Ask the locals where to eat and shop, to find amazing off the beaten path places.
Embrace Eco-Friendly Practices
Often, the desire to travel and the desire to take care of the planet wage war with each other, as travel can impact the earth economically, socially and environmentally. Some of those impacts are positive. And some, not so much.
Approximately 1.2 BILLION people travel internationally every year…when we are not in a global pandemic. And while travel and tourism contribute to the global economy, it often comes at the expense of the environment and local communities.
Eco-friendly travel encompasses more than just minimizing the impact on the environment. Sustainable travel seeks to create a balance between economic growth, environmental health and the wellbeing of people and communities.
It is possible to reduce the negative impact of tourism while maximizing the positive benefits for cultures, communities, the ecology and ultimately, the planet.
I wrote a post covering eco-friendly travel practices. Check those out HERE.
Tip: While in a city, walk as much as possible, to save fuel and really get to know the community. It’s great exercise for the visitor too. Use the hop on/hop off buses to get an overview of the city or rent bicycles and explore that way.
Do No Harm to an Area
While exploring a city, a national park or a wildlife area, do no harm. Take out what you bring in. Don’t leave trash behind and better still, pick up any trash that you see.
Never take objects or pieces of structures for souvenirs. Visit a local shop for a wide selection of mementos to purchase and take home. Resist any urge to write or carve on a surface or tree. Don’t purchase endangered species products. And leave flowers and trees growing where they are. Not only is it illegal to transport plants out of a country, you also run the risk of introducing something into your environment at home that can kill native plants.
Tip: Take a photo to remember a beautiful plant or artifact by.
Explore Less Crowded Areas
There’s nothing wrong with seeing the touristy places when traveling, especially when it’s the first time there. However, consider exploring less crowded, less popular areas too.
Overtourism occurs when popular places receive excessive numbers of tourists, creating harmful effects, especially for the locals. Venice, Amsterdam and Barcelona all experience overtourism, causing conflict for the people that live in those cities.
Exploring less crowded, less popular areas helps distribute visitors more evenly and offers new surprises and delights for the tourist.
Tip: Try visiting popular spots during off seasons or hours, if the site is important to you. And then move on to other interesting hidden or lesser known locations. Again, ask the locals for favorite places to explore that tourists don’t know about.
Think of Yourself as a Temporary Local Rather Than a Tourist
I love doing this. Behave like a local, rather than doing the touristy things. Talk to people. Share a drink or a meal with locals. Ask lots of questions and really, REALLY listen to the responses. Hang out where the locals go to have fun or relax. People watch. Walk the city or countryside and get to know neighborhoods or the land. Take a class or attend a local festival.
Be mindful of local dress codes and follow them. Learn a few phrases of the language. Yes, no and thank you are good words to start with. And always ask permission before taking a photo of someone who lives in the area. It’s rude otherwise.
Tip: Talk to cab or bus drivers about the best places to hang with the locals. They know their cities well and offer great suggestions.
Share Your Experiences
You don’t have to be a blogger to share your experiences when you return home. Use social media to promote the small businesses you visited. This encourages others to help out the local economy when they travel there. Leave positive reviews of those businesses on Tripadvisor and Google Maps. Share favorite non-touristy places that you discovered. Tell engaging stories about the people you met, the new experiences you tried, the way you grew as a person because of your travels.
And help people better understand the charm and beauty of your chosen destination. It’s a powerful way to educate people on different parts of the country and the world. Invite them to see the magic through your eyes, with your photos and words.
Tip: Carry along a travel journal to capture notes about your trip so you can share information easily once you return home. Or use the Notes feature in your smartphone.
Are You a Good Tourist?
Travel has become a passion for me, whether I’m visiting a new town, exploring a different state or flying across the ocean. And the more I travel, the more I grow and the more I learn about what a good tourist does.
Do you love to travel? Are you a good tourist? Share your favorite good tourist tip in the comments below.
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