The World Tourism Organization under the United Nations or the UNWTO released the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism. This text will guide tourists and locals to form a healthy and sustainable relationship between tourism and the local economies
Following these guidelines can be our way of making sure that we enjoy a fruitful journey and at the same time help the communities when we visit our dream destinations.
Mutual Understanding and Respect
What makes our world beautiful and exciting is the fact that no country is the same. In fact, no city or community is identical to one another. We all know this. It’s the reason we bother to travel at all. But sometimes we have the tendency to forget that.
How? By assuming that they have the same beliefs and culture as we do. Some communities believe and worship certain religions. They go through different rituals. They abide by certain rules in many things, from clothing to interaction with other people. As foreigners, it’s important to remember this and to also learn about their culture before our visit.
According to the UNWTO, it’s the responsibility of the tourists to know the characteristics of the countries that they are visiting. For example, in Japan and other Asian countries, it’s a custom to remove your shoes by the door before you enter a home. In France and other European countries, it’s natural to kiss each other on the cheek, even if you’re not close friends or families with the locals.
The Country’s Laws and Our Rights as a Tourist
Apart from knowing the customs, it’s also important for tourists to know the law when they visit other countries.
Again, no country is the same and that affects the law as well. In some countries, the legal drinking age is 18 but in others, it’s 21. We wouldn’t want to be caught dead in a bar that we’re not technically allowed to be in, right?
Even if we try to argue that we have the right to drink in our home countries, we must follow the laws of the country we’re visiting.
By knowing their laws we’ll also know our rights as tourists. When we’re in a foreign country, we know that we have the right to move about and visit various places that are open to the public. We’re entitled to the privacy of personal data, much like the locals.
We even have the right to due process in case we get into some trouble, although the legal process may be different. If in the States we are used to process servers informing us we’re due in court, some countries may have a different way of telling us we are required to face a judge.
So do your research to enjoy a safe and worry-free travel.
Sustainable Development and Cultural Heritage
It may be hard to accept but tourism is one of the leading causes of environmental degradation. For example, according to a study published in the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI), some beaches in Portugal suffered from artificial filling to attract more tourists.
This is why the UNWTO pressed that tourism should stop being a cause of environmental degradation. As tourists, it’s our responsibility to respect the environment. It’s more than just avoiding littering. It’s also about making sure that we’re not disrupting plant and animal life.
It’s also important for us to support the local business. When we visit, say, Italy, we shouldn’t go to Starbucks or other international coffee chains for a cup of coffee. Instead, we should go to a local cafe. By supporting the local businesses, we’re supporting the cultural heritage of the country that we’re visiting.
We can also uphold their heritage by immersing in their art, historical sites, and monuments. It’s our way of understanding the locals’ history. But make sure to follow rules and respect their protocols. Don’t bring home illegal souvenirs, don’t vandalize cultural sites, and respect their religious practices.
Like what that famous quote says: Take only memories, leave only footprints.
When we travel to other parts of the world, we do it for many reasons. We want to see the beautiful sites. We do it to enjoy fun activities such as skiing on a snowy mountain or diving under the ocean to see the colorful marine life. We do it to enjoy other types of food that we normally don’t have at home.
We travel to experience other cultures, meet new people and create wonderful memories. By becoming an ethical tourist, we enjoy what these destinations have to offer without disrespecting their culture and environment.