World Tourism Day and Being a Respectful Traveler

Today is World Tourism Day!

Did you even know that was a thing?

To be honest, I didn’t.

It turns out that the day was created in 1980 to create awareness about tourism and its social, cultural, and economic value. This year the World Tourism Organization is using the day as an opportunity to talk about sustainable travel.

In his message for the day, Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai urges us to respect nature, respect culture, and respect our host in our travels (UNTWO).

But what does it mean to be a respectful traveler?

It can mean lots of things and look differently depending on the destination. It can include:

  • Observing the national laws
  • Not expecting things to be like they are at home
  • Not lashing out at locals because things don’t happen like they do at home
  • Not drinking too much alcohol
  • Supporting community projects instead of giving money to begging children on the streets
  • Taking photos instead of taking cultural artifacts
  • Leaving natural environments how you found them
  • Adapting to the country’s culture and not expecting locals to adapt to you
  • Being polite to the hosts even when you’re frustrated
  • Reducing your water and energy consumption when possible
  • Leaving a good impression behind
  • Reducing your environmental impact
  • Purchasing products that aren’t using endangered animals or plants
  • Interacting only with animals that are treated ethically
  • Researching your destination ahead of time to learn about local customs and traditions
  • Trying to learn a few words in the local language
  • Appreciating all aspects of a destination (history, architecture, music, art, food, etc)

I think one of the best things we can do, as people who are generally interested in traveling, is to help others start thinking about these issues when they travel. UNTWO created the hashtag #travelenjoyrespect, and I plan to start using it on social media. I’m hopeful that together we can increase awareness on how to travel in ways that are mindful about local communities.


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