OPINION • January 2020
It’s that time of year again: time for New Year’s resolutions, for our annual promises to do better, to be better. While some of those resolves will inevitably fall by the wayside – goodbye gym membership, hello cake – there are some you should really stick to, particularly when it comes to travel. If you want to be a better traveller in 2020, these are the resolutions you need
Travelling responsibly is all about considering where your money will go. Ideally, you want the benefits of tourism to flow to the people who live and work in the place you’re visiting. So that means avoiding package trips and multi-national chains and going direct to the source. Try farm stays, B&Bs and boutique hotels. Shop in local markets. Buy souvenirs from small businesses. Every little bit helps.
Over-tourism, particularly in Western Europe, is increasingly a problem. Instead of only visiting the well-trampled hotspots – the likes of Venice, Barcelona and Amsterdam – why not head somewhere a little different every now and again. You don’t have to go far from the big hitters. Try, for example, Burano in Italy, Girona in Spain, or Holland’s Utrecht as alternatives.
Stop buying so much bottled water. Take your own reusable bottle when you travel, and either fill it from the tap each day, if the water is safe, or buy one large bottle of filtered water and fill from that. Also, pay attention to local recycling practices and do your bit.
Another great tool for reducing over-tourism is to travel away from peak season. Avoid the crowds, take advantage of lower prices, and see a different side to a city or country in the less popular months. Just make sure you take appropriate clothing, and you’re all set.
Here’s an important thing to consider when you’re interacting with animals as a tourism experience: is that animal being made to act in a way that is unnatural or forced? If the answer is yes, then this is not something you should be supporting. So, no elephant rides, no snake charmers, no dolphin shows. Check out The Club’s chat with British Airways Holidays’ Managing Director to learn about how BA is tackling animal welfare.
This is more for your own benefit than the rest of the world’s. If you want to be a better traveller and get more out of the planet, it’s time to get some qualifications. Learn to scuba dive. Get a motorbike licence. Take classes in a foreign language. Do a photography course. Learn to sail. All of these will open up new worlds to you.
Again, this is solely for you. Try something different this year. Do something you’ve never done before. Eat something strange. Go somewhere exotic. Learn something new. Take on a challenge that intimidates or frightens you. There’s a very good chance you won’t regret it.
This is the real key to being a better traveller. Smile while you’re out there on the road. Take things in your stride. Smile at strangers who don’t speak your language. Grin and bear it in security queues and customs lines. Go to foreign countries with the mantra that it’s not wrong, it’s different. And enjoy.
Instead of trying to hit, say, four cities in a week, go to one city for a week. Get to know it better. Allow time to wander, to discover, to get to know and to revisit. This way you lessen your environmental impact, help to unclog the transport hubs of the world, and gain a far better understanding of your destination and its people.
Wildlife charity Born Free is lending its expertise to helping British Airways Holidays customers make informed decisions about their choice of hotel. Find out more here