Youth orientated travel group Contiki shares tips on how to be a respectful and socially responsible traveller. Photo: Supplied
Tourism accounts for 10% of the world’s GDP. It increases employment, reduces poverty, promotes cultural values, diversity & heritage and provides as a tool for peace, security and mutual understanding. 2017 has been appointed the International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations, and Contiki’s parent company The Travel Corporation is a diamond sponsor of the initiative, passionately supporting the United Nations in mobilising global awareness and action around the value of tourism to create positive change. 

In collaboration with the UN’s sustainable activity The World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCTE) have created 5 tips for a responsible traveller, designed to guide key-players in tourism development, addressing the travel industry as well as tourists, communities, and governments with the aim to maximise the positive effects of tourism whilst minimalizing the negative effects.

“Sustainability and responsibility are central to the millennial belief system,” says Kelly Jackson, Contiki’s General Manager. “From research and a deep understanding of this demographic we know that it can’t merely be an after-thought, it needs to be threaded throughout the travel experience. The tips for a responsible traveller by WCTE a testament to the variety of ways your travel choices can create positive change.”

In an interview with Contiki, Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of UNWTO expands on this. “Small gestures have great repercussions, we all know that. In that regard, small actions like supporting local culture and products and respecting the hosting communities will definitely transform the way we travel today.”

In order to assure Contiki are playing their part in this, they have shared the top tips for responsible travel, noting the role they play to ensure a sustainable future for millennial travellers: 

Honour your hosts and our common heritage 
Experiencing different and unique destinations is one of the most influential reasons for travelling. When Contiki asked what motivates you to travel, 56% of millennial travellers said to learn about other cultures. It’s evident that now more than ever young travellers are keen to learn about the unique history and culture of each destination they visit, all the more reason for operators to ensure this plays an integral role in the development of their product. 

In Australia, Contiki works with local indigenous communities to develop included experiences that provide travellers with a deep understanding of the cultural heritage of Australia and how over time that culture has shifted. Included tours allow travellers to learn about indigenous history, spirituality and art, with the opportunity to support local artists producing art within the community. Such experiences are included on The Big Walkabout, Outback Adventure and Rock & Red. 

Be a respectful traveller 
Travelling respectfully is key to ensuring locals continue to welcome travellers into their communities. It’s imperative for travellers to be aware and mindful of national laws and regulations whilst respecting human rights. 

Protect our Planet 
Reducing your environmental impact, respecting wildlife, reducing your water and energy consumption and leaving a minimum footprint behind are just some of the key factors needed to protect our planet. These are considerations that have proven to be of interest to the millennial traveller, with 36% ranking sustainability as the most important trait for their generation. 

In the European summer of 2016 Contiki travellers recycled over 130,000 plastic bottles (approx. 6 tonnes) used on trips. Coaches in Australia are fitted with drinking water tanks to be used with refillable bottles, further reducing the impact before it’s begun. 

To close off Earth Month, Seth Maxwell – social entrepreneur and CEO of Thirst Project – will be travelling on the Canopies & Cabanas trip in Costa Rica to explore how tourism and respect for the environment go hand in hand in a destination currently ranking #1 on the Happy Planet Index as part of The Travel Project.

Support the local economy 
This can be on any scale from buying locally made products to hiring local guides. With tourism accounting for 10% of the words GDP, supporting the local economy is one of tourisms most influential roles. Contiki have been working with local organisations across counties including Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, Italy and Austria to ensure they are injecting money directly into the local economies. With 55% of millennial travellers stating that they think their generation will be remembered for leaving the world in a better place, Contiki know this is as important to their audience as it is to them.   

The traveller’s choice as to where to eat, sleep and visit can have dramatic impact on local development. Friends the Restaurant – located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia – is part of the TREE Alliance (Training Restaurants for Employment and Entrepreneurship), and works to build the futures of former street children and marginalised young people in Phnom Penh since 1994, providing training, employment and opportunity within the restaurant industry. All Contiki trips through Cambodia visit Friends as an included meal, directly supporting the work of Friends. 

Be an informed traveller 
The steps you make before travelling are as important as the way you conduct yourself whilst travelling. Taking appropriate health and safety precautions prior and during your trip, knowing how to access medical care or contact your embassy in case of an emergency and choosing tourism operators with environmental policies in place are all key musts to ensure travellers are informed. 

Life’s an adventure – make it count with absolutely #NOREGRETS.