Travel in and of itself is one of the most rewarding experiences you can participate in. Without fail, anyone who travels will come home a fuller, richer person.
For all of us travelers, wouldn’t it be great if we could leave a similarly rewarding experience for the people and places we’ve just visited? Luckily, there’s an easy answer to that question.
During my first big trip across various countries in Southeast Asia, I took a 13-day detour in the Philippines for a guided, small group tour. This ended up being the highlight of my 3-month trip. No doubt part of the reason was because I met some amazing people and we had incredible adventures in a beautiful country. But the biggest takeaway I got from that trip was the knowledge that I was leaving the people, local economy, and place better than I found it.
Welcome to ethical, transformational travel.
Responsible tourism is quickly gaining momentum in the travel industry – and for good reason. More and more tour operators are placing an emphasis on being environmentally aware, socially conscious, and mindful of building up local communities.
Whether it’s fighting against the overuse of plastic, participating in beach clean-ups in between snorkel sessions, or supporting local businesses rather than big corporations, there are countless ways to be a responsible tourist wherever you choose to travel in the world while also having the time of your life.
If you’ve never had the chance to patron a responsible tour company, here are 5 of some of the best responsible tour operators you can work with to make sure your next trip isn’t just life-changing for you, but for the people and places you visit, too!
One Life Adventures
First up is One Life Adventures. These are the guys I toured the Philippines with for 10 days. Not only did we have an incredibly experienced, funny and kind guide to show us the way throughout Manila and Palawan, but we also had a number of opportunities to support responsible travel and the local communities we visited.
This included beach clean-ups, not using any plastic throughout the trip, working exclusively with small, local businesses for all of our accommodation, transportation and meals, and volunteering at a local school outside of Port Barton. I couldn’t give this team a higher recommendation, and if you’re wanting to visit the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Japan or India, they have tours that visit each of these places!
Next up on the list is GOOD Travel. They’re a community of travelers who are actively working to ensure that the travel industry has a positive impact on local communities, economies and environments.
You have options for travel with these guys, too. Whether you want an adventure or a relaxing getaway, they’ll help you set up your ideal trip. Their tours go through Peru, South Africa, New Zealand, Thailand and Fiji.
Another great responsible tour operator to use is Lokal Travel. They’re a firm believer in impact travel, and that changing the tourism industry one trip at a time is vital to the preservation of local communities and the environment.
While traditional tourism marginalizes local communities and devastates local ecosystems, impact travel is focused on keeping the money local and taking care of the environment. While Lokal Travel is best known for letting their customers build their own trips, some of their favorite destinations include Costa Rica, Mexico and Guatemala.
Have Fun Do Good (HFDG)
The people over at Have Fun Do Good (HFDG) are perfect for travelers who love the outdoors and want to do good. They’re committed to creating unique travel experiences that center around a variety of volunteer opportunities.
The HFDG team offers tours in Costa Rica, the West Coast of the US, the Great American Southwest, Colorado, Oregon, and the Great Smoky Mountains.
“Backpacking with a purpose” is the slogan you can find the team at Operation Groundswell using. OG is committed to change, adaptability and keeping an open mind. That not only sums up the travel experience, but also says a lot about their take on responsible tourism.
Since their founding, Operation Groundswell has recognized that the most effective way to be a responsible traveler is by partnering with the communities they wish to aid. Rather than exist as a handout, they work with local NGOs and community leaders to identify what the local population needs, and create travel programs that can meet those needs. While OG has programs in Thailand, Cambodia, Peru, Guatemala, and Ecuador, they also allow you to create custom programs if you have something specific in mind.
Have your own recommendations for responsible tour companies? Comment them below or email me your suggestions!