Responsible Travel & How Your Trip Can Help Local Communities

As the travel and tourism industries continue to grow at an exponential rate, we have to be mindful of the impact we are having on the places and people we visit. ‘Responsible’ and ‘Sustainable’ have become buzzwords within the industry – for good reason – but their message is more important than any marketing trend or travel fad. Responsible travel is a relatively simple, yet powerful, concept in which travelers are aware of their potential impact on a destination and they look at ways they can reduce or alleviate any negative impact they may be having by traveling with an awareness of local people and cultures, the environment and animals.

Responsible travel help local communities

This post has been sponsored by YWCA Hotel Vancouver, however all views are my own. I never promote products or services that I do not believe in myself and couldn’t be happier to be sharing this post with you about social enterprise hotels as a method of responsible travel.

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Responsible Travel

– and how staying in social enterprise hotels on your next trip can help local communities

Before I delve into why I think Social Enterprise Hotels are the best thing since sliced bread – and are a perfect accompaniment to responsible travel movement, I thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss what exactly Responsible Travel is, what it means and why we should care. And provide you with a few ideas about the little changes you can make to the way you travel that will have a major impact on the people and places you visit. psst. it’s not as hard as you think!

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RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Whether you call it responsible, sustainable or eco travel – the message is the same, and it is becoming more and more important on this overpopulated planet of ours. Here is a very brief overview of 4 of the main focuses of responsible travel along with examples of how we can have a positive effect on each:

1. TO HELP THE LOCAL COMMUNITY – an increase in tourism almost always results in big businesses moving into town, often taking away income from small hotels, cafes and vendors.

HOW WE CAN HELP: as simple as buying your lunch from the hole-in-the-wall, family run restaurant (instead of the big chain eateries), taking tours from local guides or buying your souvenirs from local vendors (and not form the stores in the airport departure lounge) Volunteering is also a great way to give back to the community, but please be careful when choosing your program – there are lots of volunteer programs that masquerade as ethical, but are anything but!

Social Enterprise Hotels Responsible Travels

2. TO EMBRACE AND PROTECT TRADITIONAL CULTURE – there is always a risk with mass tourism that the needs of the tourists will overwhelm the very culture they have traveled to see, and traditions become ‘packaged’ for curious tourists for monetary gain.

HOW WE CAN HELP: by educating ourselves about local and indigenous cultures, arts and foods, we can support local artisans, craftsmen and help them keep those practices alive to continue to be passed through the generations. As responsible tourism is becoming more important to the wider community, it should (with a little research) be easy to find ethical and responsible tour operators who support local traditions and whose emphasis is on people, planet and profit. (And not just Profit!)

 

3. TO PRESERVE THE ENVIRONMENT – the beautiful places we visit will not stay beautiful if we do not take responsibility for our actions.

Social Enterprise Hotel Responsible Travel

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is currently under threat from mass tourism

HOW WE CAN HELP: Even the most Eco-conscious traveler is going to generate a carbon footprint when they travel – by plane, train or automobile (the physical interpretation of travel makes this unavoidable!) but we can reduce our impact by purchasing carbon offsets for air travel, walking where possible, carrying re-usable water bottles, and reducing our reliance on plastic products (e.g. re-usable canvas/fabric shopping bags).(And these are just a few examples)

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4. TO PROTECT ANIMALS FROM ABUSE – the chance to interact with exotic animals has been a draw card throughout the travel industry for decades now. However this is changing. The plight of these wild animals has come under the spotlight in recent years with documentaries like Blackfish (which discussed the unethical treatment of orca whales at Seaworld), the closing down of Thailand’s ‘Tiger Temple’ when after years of speculation the animals were drugged, a raid on the property discovered the bodies of 40 tiger cubs in freezers on the property and 3 monks were linked to wildlife trafficking, and the almost deafening plea of many travellers and tourists alike to stop riding elephants. These are just examples and there are many more ‘wildlife attractions’ where animals continue to be exploited.

Responsible Tourism - Social Enterprise Hotels

There is nothing better than seeing wild animals in the wild

HOW WE CAN HELP: Research any wildlife attraction/sanctuary thoroughly before attending. If you have any concerns or questions relating to the care of the animals that the operation cannot provide satisfactory answers to, Skip it.
You can also help by educate others about the inhumane conditions and treatment of the animals. The reality is that in most cases these animals are wild, and they need to be drugged or trained to behave in a certain (unnatural) way.
The problem is particularly bad in the developing world, and as long as travelers and tourists continue to pay for these animal interactions – it is not going to stop.

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What is a Social Enterprise and WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER STAYING AT ONE THE NEXT TIME YOU TRAVEL

A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being – this may include maximizing social impact alongside profit.” (thanks Wikipedia)

And so incorporating this within the travel industry sits easily within the first focus of responsible tourism – to help the community. The essence of which, as discussed above, is to shop small, buy local and and do our best to support social enterprises where profits go back to programs and services for the local community. As travelers we should try and do our part by staying in hotels that give back where possible.

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A Perfect Example of a Social Enterprise Hotel:

YWCA Hotel Vancouver

The YWCA Hotel Vancouver is a hotel with a heart and a mission, so much so that they even won a Trico Charitable Foundation: Social Enterprize Award. All the money from your stay at the hotel goes toward YWCA Metro Vancouver programs and services to help women and children in the community (such as affordable housing, single mother support services and free hot meals in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. For full list click full list click here).

Responsible Travel - Social Enterprise Hotels

The hotel has 155 non-smoking rooms suitable for single travelers, couples and families and daily rates are as low as $75 Canadian per night (approx. $55 USD at the time of publishing).

Responsible Travel - Social Enterprise Hotels

The clean and modern rooms come equipped with TVs, Mini-fridges, Hair-dryers and Free Wifi and the hotel has large kitchens available for guest use. (The inclusion of cooking facilities is perfect for those on a budget, or who like to make their own meals whilst traveling.)

Rated as a 2/3* hotel, they occupy a great downtown location: right next to BC Place; one block from a Skytrain station, QE theatre and the public library. They’re also right next to Robson Street and 5-10 minute walk from Chinatown.

YWCA Hotel Vancouver currently holds the 14th Spot in Trip Advisors Best Bargain Hotels in Canada.

Responsible Travel - Social Enterprise Hotels

If you would like to book your stay at the YWCA Hotel Vancouver, you can do so through their website (preferred as it means all your fees can be given back to YWCA Metro) or via booking sites such as HotelsCombined.com (but it’s cheaper to book direct!)

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If you liked this article – or just want to spread the word about responsible travel – please hit the P in the share bar to the right to pin full size images, or share this post by any other method. It can be your feel good deed for the day!

Responsible Travel - help local communities    Responsibe travel help local communities

Responsible Travel - Social Enterprise Hotels    Responsible Travel - Social Enterprise Hotels
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62 thoughts on “Responsible Travel & How Your Trip Can Help Local Communities

  1. Anita says:

    I had no idea what a Social Enterprise Hotel was or could look like, thank you for enlightening me. I can see from this post what significance it brings to others.

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Anita – I admit I was a little in the dark too before researching for this article, but social enterprise hotels are such a great initiative, I really hope more people will consider staying at one once they know they exist!

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Allison – I was a bit in the dark too – so much so that i’ve put together a resource post coming out later this week that lists every social enterprise hotel I can find around the world – hopefully if we can spread the word about them they will become more popular.

  2. Nicole Anderson says:

    There is such an important message behind all of this for us if we are to look after this planet for future generations. We should actively support any enterprise that proactively does something in this regard (in addition to the great work this hotel does to support women and children in their community). In the camping and hiking world, we talk about sustainability as the ‘Leave No Trace’ principle so that those who follow us can equally benefit from the beauty that we have enjoyed. May we all get behind this message!

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Nicole – and I’m familiar with the ‘Leave no trace’ and ‘pack in, pack out’ mentaility. We really need to work together to protect the planet from an environmental perspective, and these social enterprise hotels that help people are just as deserving of our efforts. Thanks for your support!

  3. Juliette | Snorkels to Snow says:

    Excellent article. These days we are becoming far more socially and environmentally conscious as we travel and posts like this one help remind me people why it’s so important. We have to protect this world, and everything in it, or it won’t be there in future.

  4. Kassie says:

    I had no idea that such a thing existed but I love how it benefits the local community. This was something that bothered me a lot while backpacking Asia and I was always looking for ways to make sure the money made it into the pockets of the local people. I like how things like this hotel are making this more possible.

  5. Bhushavali says:

    That’s a great read. Ofcourse I’ve met some tourist who make us cringe! Its depressing to see irresponsible tourists esp in monuments, writing their names or using flash photography when they shouldn’t! Its really irritating.

  6. Naomi says:

    Great guide with excellent examples. I struggled with this a lot when we travelled in Tibet, as our guide kept dropping us off at these government hotels and we wanted to stay at local Tibetan places. I took some argumenting but we managed a 50-50 local sourced trip in the end. pfew.

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Naomi – and it’s disappointing when staying in local places is a struggle – I’m glad you managed to negotiate a little bit of balance on your trip.

  7. Jennifer says:

    We all have a responsibility as travellers to be better global citizens. I had never heard of social enterprise hotels before. It’s something I will be looking into more.

  8. Maggie says:

    Great post! I agree about buying food from hole in the wall type restaurants. You meet some awesome locals and help support local families. Not to mention, the food is usually some of the best in the area!

  9. Suzanne says:

    I completely agree that travelers need to pay attention to sustainable tourism. It’s not a #trend or a photo opp. It’s something that will help preserve the natural environment and help local communities make a living. I also agree that there are many “volunteer” groups out there and travelers need to be wary of these groups’ motivations. Always do your research before you go before you get scammed.

  10. Lieurene Tran says:

    These are all great and I totally agree with you about responsible travel. Its never too late for anyone to start practicing that once they become aware of it. It can help make a world a better place for everyone especially the local communities. It’s so important that we all take part in protecting earth as well. It really sadden me when I see people ride on elephants, supporting big corporations for travel and contributing to carbon footprints. There’s so much stuff that we can do to make a difference even if it means small.

  11. Gina says:

    It’s so good to be a responsible traveler and really invest into local communities . I also like supporting ethical businesses like the YWCA in Vancouver. I’m all about preserving the environment especially since the Great Barrier Reef is dying.

  12. Rhiannon says:

    Responsible travel is something I’m trying to more consciously make an effort to partake in! There are some things you’ve mentioned that I’ve been doing for years anyway , such as reusable bottles and bags, but this has always been more due to it being common sense than it being environmentally sound. I’ve read some startling articles recently though, especially regarding plastic, which has really drilled home just how important it is that we reduce unnecessary use!
    I tend to always buy from family run restaurants too, mostly because it’s always cheaper 🙂
    Protecting animals is super super super important!! When I was in India I really wanted to see some elephants but didn’t want to contribute in any way to them being harmed. Luckily one of my friends were able to arrange something completely ethical and safe for me and the elephants!
    I had no idea what a social enterprise hotel was but it’s SUCH a good idea! I’ll definitely keep an eye out for options like the YMCA Vancouver next time I go off travelling.

  13. Kreete says:

    I am a strong believer and support of responsible and sustainable travel and I think it’s really important to talk about this. The wider audience needs to know what they can do to help, so thank you for speaking up about this important topic. It’s great that you bring out actual things we can do to help and for that reason I’ll give it a share on my Facebook page!

  14. Vrithi Pushkar says:

    I had no idea what a Social Enterprise Hotel was or that they even existed. thank you for teaching me something new today. I try to be a responsible traveler as much as i can but I need to start looking into the hotels now.

  15. Katie says:

    An interesting, thought provoking article! It is so important that we travel responsibility and help build up countries through tourism whilst sustaining the environment. I have never heard of Social Enterprise hotels but will definitely look into them next time we plan a trip. Thanks for sharing

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Katie – and stay tuned – I’m putting together a resource post listing every social enterprise hotel that I can find! It will hopefully make finding them easier for everyone!

  16. Janine Good says:

    Being responsible when travelling is something not enough travellers demonstrates. I hope that more and more establishments that have animal encounters with obvious poor treatment be abolished and that more people respect local communities. I try to find family-owned restaurants that serve amazing food. I sometimes ask locals of their favourite spots. Great post with a very important message.

  17. Eloise says:

    Responsible travel is very important. Thank you for raising awareness with your article. I learnt a lot about YMCA actions. They’re doing a great job!! Well done!!

  18. Kelly says:

    What an amazing article!! I think it is so important for us to consider not only whete we travel but how we travel and how it inpacts locals. We want to help preserve, not destroy the very areas that we are visiting. Thanks for a great share and lots of things to consider.

  19. Dinah says:

    I have a travel agency and really try to promote conscious traveling. This article exposes all the benefits of it, and I think it is the future of traveling. Thank you for sharing this!

  20. Kyla says:

    What a great article!! This is something I’m constantly trying to consider when traveling overseas, but I didn’t even think about it when traveling near home! Thank you for opening my eyes and reminding me that we can give back and make a difference even with domestic travel, it’s not restricted solely to developing countries!

  21. Brooke says:

    Well said! I strongly agree that individual understanding and action, rather than depending on buzzword marketing, are key to traveling more responsibly. I’ll be heading to Vancouver so your recommendation came at the perfect time!

  22. Natasha Whates says:

    A very useful guide for responsible travel. I like volunteering abroad and I always worry about the ethnicity of the place before I go. I had no idea that there were hotels donating money from people staying to help others! What a great idea.

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Natasha – I had no idea about Social Enterprise Hotels prior to researching for this post either – but they are a great initiative and one that needs a lot more attention than they get!

  23. Kavey says:

    Fantastic post and love how clearly you’ve laid it all out. I remember in the late 90s and through the 00s when the ideas of eco/ responsible travelling became buzz words that there were a lot of operators and businesses jumping on the bandwagon without actually delivering but nowadays it’s a more understood category of travel and there are some incredible people promoting it. It’s easier for all of us to really be sure that we are putting our money into the right places. This hotel seems a great choice indeed.

  24. noel says:

    Beautiful hotel and rooms, I would love to stay there. I think it is a great thing to be eco wise and also support local tourism and industry, eating/purchasing in local markets and doing all you can to be less intrusive on your travels.

  25. LeAnna Brown says:

    One of the things i have become extremely concious of through my travels is animal tourism. I no longer partake in anything that is a dangerous tourism method with animals, even if it would make “the perfect selfie”

  26. Barb says:

    It would be great if everyone cared about our planets while they are traveling. Sadly, so many places in the World are being destroyed by humans. Thank you for sharing this.

  27. Jenn and Ed Coleman says:

    We just recently wrote a long and detailed piece about Glamping and Ecotourism focus on Elephant Hills in Thailand. The obvious benefactors of ethical tourism is the animals and nature but the culture and sovereignty of the indigenous people need protected too. Usually, people who travel have a touch of privilege and we want to share our wealth but it’s a double edged sword. The more we interact with a local culture, the more we risk changing it. Your article did a great job of pointing out these risks.

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Jenn and Ed – it’s definitely a fine balance between interaction and preservation without turning culture into a tourist attraction.

  28. stacey veikalas says:

    Very helpful and I think something many travelers do not think about. Most preserving the area, respecting cultures, and protecting the animals – many people forget while on vacation! Great lists of ideas!

  29. Tami says:

    The YWCA Vancouver Hotel looks like a great place to stay. Are there more like it in other cities? I do agree that it’s important to travel responsibly and not disturb the natural and social balances. We should “blend in”, not stand out!

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Tami – and I’ve got a post coming out later this week that lists as many socially responsible hotels that I can find on 6 continents. They are out they, but they are not well marketed/advertised.

  30. Megan says:

    Some really great ways to help local communities when you’re on the road. I had no idea some YMCA’s had hotels. I’ll have to keep an eye out in Vancouver and elsewhere in the future.

  31. Irina says:

    Such a thoughtful post! Thanks for all the tips, I’ve never heard of Social Enterprise Hotels before, will definitely check this out! So far, I’ve tried donating to environmental projects in order to make up for my carbon footprint from planes and road trips. And I also try to reduce my use of disposable products, I have a tote, a water bottle and I try to remember to ask for a straw. But I’m always looking for more ways to travel responsibly 🙂

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Irina – it sounds like you’re really making an effort to travel responsibly – good for you – and I’m sure the environment thanks you too!

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