When traveling to developing countries, we must be conscious of our impact on local residents. Mass tourism supports foreign parties, denies locals access to economic incentives, and provides the tourist with a diluted experience. REAL tourism benefits both locals and the tourist.
Travel with the goal of making the places you visit better than before you arrived. Support locals, celebrate the culture, and protect the environment
Respect the customs and culture of the place you are visiting. Remember that you traveled for a reason, so be willing to leave your expectations at the airport and embrace the adventure.
Immersing yourself with locals allows you to witness their way of life and genuinely experience the location.
Supporting locals can change their lives and communities, but having an authentic travel experience can also change the life of the traveler!
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” -Confucius
Stay at locally owned accommodations. This can be traditional lodging, or a more immersive option such as a bed and breakfast, guesthouse or homestay. Another option is social enterprise hotels that give back to local communities.
Dine at locally owned restaurants, purchase goods from local markets, and support local artisans. Small eateries and street food offer traditional local cuisine for some of the most authentic experiences.
Do you believe that the tourism industry can bring positive change to developing countries? Do you want to be part of the change? Pledge to be a REAL tourist on all your future adventures and join the growing number of sustainably conscious travelers.
I will travel responsibly, ethically, authentically, and I will change lives
“The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
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Visit local markets to find everything from fresh produce to clothes and toys to food stalls.
Find roadside stands with fresh produce, sweet treats, and (in coastal areas) freshly caught fish.
Utilize small locally owned stores to purchase snacks and drinks.
Locally made crafts make excellent souvenirs, especially if you have had the opportunity to watch the artist create it.
Purchase all of your souvenirs for friends and family from local vendors (not the airport!).
Look for social enterprises that sell local products to directly support a cause in the community.
Feel free to bargain for prices when it is the custom, but remember to not over bargain and deprive the seller of necessary income.
Dine at locally owned restaurants. Ask locals for recommendations, or look for what establishments locals are dining at and for menus that are in the native language.
Experience a variety of food from street vendors. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous, not knowing what you are putting in your mouth can make for great memories!
Research the customs and traditions of the people you are visiting before going to ensure you don’t mistakenly disrespect them.
Learn to speak at least a handful of necessary words in the native language to show respect when interacting with locals.
Visit lesser-known attractions and areas that do not suffer from overtourism, or visit high-traffic areas in the off-season.
Be sure your tour guides are always local residents.
Take educational tours of locally owned farms or cultural sites.
Volunteer to work on a locally owned farm, to teach English to children, or to work with a reputable nonprofit organization.
Be wary of volunteering to work at an orphanage or animal rescue center as there are many disreputable organizations that may engage in exploitation, trafficking, and abuse.
Take an educational class. Learn how to cook traditional dishes, how to make traditional crafts, or how to perform traditional dances.
Attend a local festival or cultural event.
Use public transportation whenever possible. This is eco-friendly, inexpensive, and a great way to interact with locals.
Slow down, get off the beaten path, spend time interacting with locals and you will be rewarded with an authentic experience that will change your outlook on life!
If using a travel agent, choose one that specializes in responsible travel.
Whenever possible, choose to stay at locally owned accommodations.
Steer away from all-inclusive resorts, large luxury hotels, and hotel chains as they redirect revenues away from the local community.
If you prefer to stay at a luxury hotel, choose one that is eco-friendly, employs local residents, and gives back to the community.
Social enterprise hotels are a responsible choice as they exist primarily to give some or all of the profits back to the community.
Search for accommodations that are certified as sustainable.
Small locally owned hotels will likely not be certified, but are more socially sustainable than large certified resorts as all revenue stays in the hands of the locals!
Guesthouses and bed and breakfasts allow you to stay on a local’s property and interact with them while still having your own private space. Be sure they are owned by local residents though, rather than by foreign expats.
Homestays are an excellent way to learn about the culture and livelihoods of locals, as well as receive homemade meals.
Do your research to find out how environmentally responsible your hotel is. Do they have a water conservation plan? A waste management plan? A clean energy source?
Tourism Business Financing:
We strive to increase the number of locally owned tourism businesses by providing a low-cost financing option for entrepreneurs that would otherwise not qualify for traditional financing. We offer microloans to locals that wish to start a new tourism business or expand an existing tourism business. Applicants without prior education must complete REAL Tourism Development’s hospitality management training program or business management community courses to ensure successful management of their new or expanded business. We also reward participants whose businesses meet specific socially and environmentally sustainable criteria by offering partial loan payment forgiveness.
We can promote local management and ownership positions in the tourism industry by offering a formal education to students who would not otherwise be able to attend university. Each year we will provide one full-ride university scholarship to a local high school student pursuing a degree in Tourism or Hospitality. Preference will be given to students that participate in REAL Tourism Development’s youth outreach program, those that plan to stay in their home country to build their career in tourism, and those most in financial need, as well as to females who historically have lower rates of higher education and employment.
Hospitality Training Centers
We combat unemployment and the lack of qualified local applicants for hospitality positions in developing countries with our hospitality training centers. These centers for at-risk youth and disadvantaged community members will equip graduates for employment in high-paying luxury hotels. Training centers will be part of an operating hotel to provide both formal classroom education as well as practical training and apprenticeship on location. Students will be selected based on need, with a preference given to females due to their higher rates of unemployment. Students will select a program from the areas of housekeeping, restaurant service, culinary, or hotel management. Graduates will be provided with a paid internship at a major high-end hotel, and with assistance finding employment after the internship. And as a nonprofit teaching hotel, all profits go directly into the community to improve their quality of life.