Responsible Tourism: How to be a Responsible Traveler

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Tourists Should Respect the Places They Visit

Tourists have great love for the places that they visit. The excitement of traveling hundreds, even thousands of miles across the world to explore different cultures and the history of ancient civilizations fills them up, fuelling the love and adrenaline of their travel. The tourist industry is of great necessity to some countries, as it promotes their economy and even funds archaeological projects. This in turn, helps us understand the history and culture, and creates jobs for millions around the world.

Htilominlo Temple in Myanmar
Htilominlo Temple in Myanmar

However, there are certain times when tourists simply do not have the proper respect for the places they are visiting. Most of the time it is not done out of spitefulness o instead, it is simply down to not understanding and not doing their homework. Insulting locals, constant touching, rude body behaviour etc, can all lead to tourists getting a bad reputation. However, with a little bit of research, tourists can be seen to be respectful of the places they are visiting.

Touching:

When you come up close to an ancient monument or artwork it can be incredibly exciting. The fact that you can reach out and touch history doesn’t mean that you should. There are so many tourists who constantly touch ancient artefacts without asking for permission. These artefacts are incredibly old and tourists should respect this. Would you be happy if someone walked into your home and started stroking your stuff?

Do not Touch
Do not Touch photo courtesy of users.clas.ufl.edu

One of the biggest reasons that tourists shouldn’t touch artefacts is because they can damage them simply by a slight touch. Your skin excretes natural oils and with the dirt and bacteria carried on the skin, it can be transferred onto the monument itself, causing irreversible damage. Archaeologists only receive a certain amount of funds to keep these items or places in good condition – too much damage by tourists can close the sites permanently.

Harm By Dress:

The way tourists present themselves to locals should also be minded. There are certain places in this world where it is best if you dressed a little more conservatively. If you visit the Middle East or Asia where Islam is practiced, tourists should respect the guidelines set out to them by the religious practices.

Nabawi Mosque, Medina, Saudi Arabia
Nabawi Mosque, Medina, Saudi Arabia

For example, if tourists visit an Islamic mosque then they should be prepared to cover their arms and legs. Some women will need to cover their hair. Certain mosques are not open to non-Muslims, although there are some which will. Do not try to force your way into any religious building – it is not a respectable thing for tourists to do.

Photos:

With tourists come the inevitable cameras. Taking photographs is a great way of recording our time away in the sun, where we can show our friends the beautiful places we have visited. However, photography can be a big issue for some places and tourists need to be respectful of this.

Tourist Taking Picture In Patan Nepal
Tourist Taking Picture In Patan Nepal

For example, some museums do not permit tourists to take photos of particular artefacts or artworks, and religious icons cannot be snapped in particular places. For those on minority travel tours, you should realise that some cultures do not like the idea of being photographed. Some tourists completely disregard this and snap away – for the people who don’t wish to be photographed, it is extremely hurtful.

Physical Contact:

Physical contact between tourist and local can be quite a controversial issue. In certain places, it can be a big no no. Tourists should always be respectful when touching locals, especially women. If you are a male tourist, it is always best that you show the proper respect to a local woman. What may be tolerable in your country may not be so in another country. Be polite and courteous. Remember that you will leave in a few days, but she will not. You could leave her reputation in tatters. The same goes for women – your conduct with local men will leave a lasting impression of female tourists in the future.

Woman in Muslim Street in Xian China
Woman in Muslim Street in Xian China

Tourists are essential in certain countries which depend on them for jobs and the country’s economy. However, tourists should respect the places they visit. They leave an incredibly important legacy for future tourists – it certainly should not be a bad one.

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