Mizormor • May 18, 2023 • Travel tips
Tourism is an essential industry in Africa, providing opportunities for economic development and cultural exchange. In 2019, Africa was considered the 2nd fastest growing tourism destination in the world. According the World Tourism Organisation, Africa receives on average 50 million tourists per year.
However, tourism can also have negative impacts, including environmental degradation, cultural commodification, and the exploitation of local communities. Responsible tourism, also known as sustainable tourism, seeks to mitigate these negative impacts by promoting ethical practices that benefit both tourists and local communities. In this article, we will explore how to travel ethically and support local communities in Africa.
Choose Ethical Tour Operators
One of the best ways to support local communities and promote responsible tourism is by choosing ethical tour operators. Ethical tour operators are those who prioritize the well-being of local communities and the environment over profit. These operators work with local communities to develop sustainable tourism practices that provide economic benefits without harming the environment or culture.
When selecting a tour operator, do your research and look for companies that have strong sustainability policies, provide fair wages and working conditions for employees, and promote responsible tourism practices. Look for certification programs such as the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) or Travelife, which ensure that tourism operators meet specific sustainability criteria. You can use the Mizormor platform to find tours being offered by vigorously vetted and approved tour agencies operating in Africa.
Respect Local Culture and Customs
When visiting African communities, it’s essential to respect local customs and traditions. This means learning about the culture before you arrive, dressing appropriately, and avoiding behaviors that may offend or disrespect local communities.
For example, in many African cultures, it is customary to remove shoes before entering a home or place of worship. It’s also important to dress modestly and avoid wearing revealing clothing. Be aware of local religious practices and holidays and respect them accordingly.
Support Local Businesses
Supporting local businesses is one of the most effective ways to promote responsible tourism and support local communities. Purchasing goods and services from local businesses not only provides economic benefits but also supports the preservation of local culture and traditions.
When traveling, look for opportunities to purchase souvenirs, eat at local restaurants, and use local transportation. Avoid purchasing products that exploit animals or the environment, such as ivory or animal skins.
Reduce Your Environmental Impact
Responsible tourism also means reducing your environmental impact when traveling. This can be achieved by reducing energy consumption, minimizing waste, and choosing sustainable transportation options.
When booking accommodations, look for eco-friendly options that use renewable energy sources and implement waste reduction and recycling programs. When exploring natural areas, follow the principles of Leave No Trace and avoid littering, disturbing wildlife, or damaging natural resources.
If you’re a traveler who likes to volunteer while visiting African communities, it’s important to do so responsibly. Volunteering can provide significant benefits to local communities, but it can also perpetuate stereotypes and cause harm if not done ethically.
When volunteering, look for programs that work with local communities and focus on sustainable development projects. Avoid programs that prioritize the needs of tourists over the needs of the community or that perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Be aware that volunteering may require a significant time commitment and that short-term volunteering may not provide the same benefits as long-term volunteering.