Sustainable tourism is a hot topic, with the travel pause enforced on us by the coronavirus pandemic giving us the opportunity to reflect on our lifestyles.
While no one is saying we shouldn’t travel, it’s a good time to promise ourselves that we might travel more thoughtfully. Sustainable tourism is sometimes referred to as ‘green’ tourism as it aims to reduce any negative impacts on the environment. But in fact, sustainability also extends to people, protecting their culture and way of life while enabling them to make a decent living. So what can you do to travel more sustainably? Here are our expert tips for becoming a more responsible tourist.
Embrace Slow Travel
If you can, take fewer vacations – but stay longer. Maximising your time in a destination but minimizing the environmental impact of getting there makes sense. Fortunately, many of Mexico’s most popular regions for tourists lend themselves to slow travel: when it comes to attractions, there’s ample variety and plenty to do. Visit the Mayan Riviera, for instance, and you’ll have time to venture inland from its beautiful resorts to charming but relatively overlooked towns such as Valladolid or Merida. With more time, you can explore endless hidden ruins, discover remote beaches and swim in the cooling waters of the area’s many cenotes.
Head off the beaten track
It’s also a good idea to avoid tourist hotspots – and you’ll soon find that dodging the crowds makes for a much more rewarding travel experience. For instance, you could switch up popular archaeological sites like Chichen Itza and Tulum for the less visited but equally fascinating Coba and Ek Balam. Alternatively, head inland. Consider ditching headliners Mexico City and San Miguel Allende in exchange for the chance to get acquainted with under the radar places such as Taxco and Guanajuato. Support locally-owned businesses and restaurants to be sure that you’re doing your bit for the economy.
Travel out of season
People need to make a living from tourism, but when a year’s visitors are crammed into a few months, the rest of the 12 months can be tough. By traveling out of season, you can help by spreading out income from tourism. In what’s known as the ‘shoulder seasons’, the weather can be just as warm, dry, and sunny, but prices typically represent better value for money, meaning there’s a financial reward for your thoughtfulness too.
Rent a hybrid or electric vehicle
To get the most out of your vacation, it’s likely that you’ll want to travel around. After all, what’s the point of visiting a place as colorful and exciting as Mexico if you’re just going to stay in your resort? If you do decide to explore, think about how to do so without causing unnecessary pollution. For short trips where it’s not practical to explore solely on foot, perhaps bicycle hire is an option. Consider taking the bus rather than relying on your own car. If you do choose to go down the private rental route, seek out a hybrid or electric vehicle where available.
Use sustainable sunscreen
One of the most important responsibilities we have as tourists is to ensure our travels don’t adversely impact the environment. Making a few simple changes can have positive consequences. For example, change your sun cream brand for one which won’t leave a harmful oily film in the water. Traditional formulas contain chemicals that aren’t good for marine life, but there are biodegradable alternatives on the market: look for active ingredients like titanium oxide and zinc oxide. At water parks such as Xcaret and Xel-ha, you can pick up the ocean and reef-safe sunscreen if you haven’t bought your own.
Give careful consideration to wildlife encounters before you book
Wildlife encounters can be some of the most memorable experiences we have while away. But it’s vital we do our research to ensure that the creatures we come into contact with aren’t affected by our actions. If you’re keen to swim with dolphins, for instance, think about steering clear of dolphinariums and aquariums. Instead try seeking out a wild pod off the coast of Baja California, where cetaceans are often spotted. The area’s great for whale watching too.
Minimize detergent and recycle paper
Most of us have stayed in hotels that offer not to change towels and bed linen every day, but it’s up to us to make sure we do so. Reusing towels might not seem a big deal, but if everyone does it, the impact is huge. Similarly, where possible, opt for paperless ticketing and do your research online rather than by asking for a leaflet. If you do end up with a collection of paper maps and flyers, see if you can recycle them or pass them on so that incoming visitors can reuse your cast-offs.
We hope you’ll agree that sustainable tourism practices are easier to adopt than you might have thought. Let’s all do our bit for the planet and try to be more considerate, greener tourists going forward.
Kaloyan Valentinov Danchev is the founder and president of a luxury travel firm, Fidelis Marketing Group. It is a business group that sells tourist facilities of the highest quality and tours to the best attractions of the locations in which we have a presence.