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The adage “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” resonates with many of today’s travellers who want to explore the far reaches of the globe without negatively impacting either the local environment or culture.
But how can those globetrotters be confident their travel choices are indeed sustainable?
“We believe in the importance of sustainable travel. Sharing cultures is important, but so is awareness that what we do can impact other people and environments,” says Steven Cheung, CEO of Infinity Travel, which organizes tours for individuals and groups to destinations across Canada and around the globe. “The good news is travellers can take a few simple steps to reduce their impact while embracing the natural and cultural wonders of their destination.”
• Step 1: Look for a travel company that has adopted the best practises of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, or that is certified or assessed by a global sustainable tourism certification body with an eye to increasing sustainable tourism knowledge and practices, suggests Cheung, also a founder of the first Asia Ecotourism training Institute.
• Step 2: Ask about measures your potential travel operator takes to have a positive global impact, such as Infinity Travel’s free seminars and workshops helping people make a difference when they travel and the four pillars of its business philosophy: sustainable management; positive socioeconomic impacts; reducing cultural impacts; and avoiding environmental impacts.
• Step 3: Ask what steps the travel company takes to help travellers reduce their personal impact. For example, Cheung encourages travellers to take their own reusable water bottles, soaps and shampoos to reduce garbage in the areas they visit, and suggests taking a personal towel to save water at their hotel.
• Step 4: Consider if their tours suit your travel needs: Do they offer options for individual travellers as well as groups? Are you comfortable with the group size? Are the leaders experienced and knowledgeable about the local environment and culture? Does the focus of their available tours fit your travel goals, such as wildlife appreciation, cultural exploration, heritage or photography?
• Step 5: What lasting impact do their travel programs have on their clients? “We often hear how when they return from Kenya or Bhutan or the Canadian Rockies how our travellers have a new awareness of how they interact with other cultures and natural ecosystems. Many begin exploring bird watching or nature photography, which they can then share with others,” Cheung reflects.
Infinity Travel is a licensed Canadian tour operator and approved Canada-China Inbound Tour Operator, a training partner of Global Sustainable Tourism Council, National Association for Interpretation and Certification Partner of Ecotourism Australia.