Be a traveller, not a tourist.
The travel and tourism industry contributes over 2 trillion dollars annually to the Global economy. That’s 9% of the GDP! Imagine if all of that wealth was spent with socially responsible companies who give back to the communities we visit.
Travel is like sharing, you bring money from one country and spend it in another. You can strengthen small communities around the world, simply by doing what you love.
Here are 10 easy ways you can support local communities when you travel:
1. Follow/Understand Local Laws & Customs
First, before you ever travel out of your country, make sure you understand and mind the local laws and customs in the country you’re visiting. Don’t be that tourist that gets in trouble and claims they didn’t know they couldn’t do something. Not only is it disrespectful to the country you’re traveling in, but you’re also a representative of your home country every time you travel. Represent your country well!
2. Eat somewhere local
Eating in small restaurants, cafes and stalls ensures your money goes directly into the surrounding community. It also gives you an authentic insight into what the local and regional dishes are and how people enjoy them.
I love to find a little hole in the wall where the owners are likely to serve you food in the way that they would serve their own family.
Eating the popular Laksa dish in a 24-hour food market in Singapore
Next time you go travelling, avoid the convenience of Starbucks or Mcdonalds. Don’t waste your time with food that you can eat back home!
Tasty street food in Thailand. Try something different.
3. Shop local
Similarly to eating local, when you avoid big chains and supermarkets not only will you get an authentic experience, you will also be supporting small businesses which helps the community to thrive.
Remember, try to maximise your savings when booking transportation with huge corporations, like airlines. But when you arrive, remember to pay a reasonable price to the local vendor, don’t overdo it with haggling! Saving a few cents here and there probably doesn’t make much difference to your overall trip, but it might to the livelihood of the person you are haggling with.
4. Shop Female Owned Businesses
Yes, it’s important to support local shops, but it can also help to shop local female owned shops. Especially in places around the world where being a female entrepreneur can be almost impossible. The more we support female led businesses and organisations around the globe, the more impact we can make on creating equal opportunities for both men and women.
5. Live like a local
Hotel resorts are tempting, and I’m not saying I haven’t given in to temptations in the past, but if you look past the convenience and comfortability, you might find that homestays are much more enjoyable.
Where else can you get a more genuine experience than staying in a family-owned bungalow or better yet, local B&B? You won’t find authenticity within your enclosed compound where the nearest local to you is the one serving margaritas by the pool.
Family-owned bungalow I stayed in when visiting Koh Tao island.
6. Support social causes
Vote for a better world by reallocating your travel budget to socially responsible companies. Simply with your love for travel, you can empower small communities by supporting local businesses and social causes.
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7. Write travel blogs
Another way you can support the communities you travel in, is by writing about them. This is incredibly helpful for safe and welcoming communities relying on tourism dollars that are negatively stereotyped in the media; however, we should also be careful not to advertise locations that are oversaturated with tourism.
Writing travel blogs can bring positive and negative attention to certain destinations, so it’s important to think about the impact your piece will have on the community you’re writing about.
Overtourism can be damaging and as travel bloggers, we need to be responsible and encourage people to consider whether they will be positively or negatively impacting a place they visit and how we can do better to give back more than we take.
Which leads me to my next point…
8. Donate what you don't need
If you have a bit of extra cash on holiday, it’s likely you will buy some extra things. I always make a point of buying a unique shirt from a small business when I’m abroad. Something that you can’t find at home. I then giveaway a shirt or two to a charity shop, clothes collection point, or even a friend I make out there.
It’s better doing that than amassing loads of stuff that you don’t need at home. Or at least to save your back from the strain of extra items when you are travelling. If you buy something new, swap it with something old. Who knows, someone might enjoy wearing what you don’t wear anymore.
9. Minimise your impact
Clean up after yourself! Bring a reusable bag. Pick up some rubbish at the beach and put it in the bin. Be a travel-ninja and leave no footprints.
And please, please, please leave wild animals alone. Petting zoos are not OK! Do your research; it only takes a quick Google Search to uncover the tremendous amount of stress these animals go through for our pleasure.
Remember that you are a guest; treat everyone and the surrounding area with respect. Help the communities you visit thrive and give back more than you take!
10. Give back with micro-financing
If you want to do more to help, join my lending team to give back to entrepreneurs in developing countries. You can also purchase any of the e-guides from That Travel Blog and 100% of your money will go towards starting and lower-income poor entrepreneurs who can use our funding to better support their families and local community.