The Travellers Guide to Responsible Tourism in 2021


Your ultimate guide for being a part of the Responsible Tourism movement in 2021

Since my first solo backpacking trip across Europe I’ve come to learn one thing about myself, I love travel.

A lot.

We talk about the travel bug as humans as if some foregin concept of being enthralled with moving around discovering new and exciting places is somehow innately foregin to us.

We are however nomadic people by nature, as was once required to avoid other tribes, in search of food & seeking shelter.

Since those days the age of movement and travel looks very different; and in the 21st century we must devote all our time and effort into creating an industry around responsible tourism. 

With good reason too.

A hut in the middle of the Peruvian andes of Salkanty mountain

It’s not hard to see the effects of unchecked tourism in places like south east asia, where plastic pollution and unsanitary local practices have left communities in dire straits.

Whatever your modality of transport and intentions for travelling, we are harming the planet by doing so.

A New York Times article published recently suggested that cruise ships emit 3-4 times more co2 than international flights do. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

We can create an industry that is centred around responsible tourism that will allow people to travel and visit countries abroad without the risk of leaving a noticeable carbon footprint.

What is Sustainable Tourism?

Often used interchangeably with the term sustainable tourism, however so as to avoid overusing the term, Chris and Laura Travels like to refer to this industry as responsible tourism.


The concept of sustainability can infer that even if a practice is wrong or harmful, it can still continue to occur if left unchecked causing further harm.

The idea of responsible tourism is that each and every person is to be held accountable for safe and ethical practices.

The term was first defined and agreed upon by the world travel industry in 2007 at the World Travel Summit in Cape Town, known as the Cape Town Declaration

The declaration discusses the importance of an agreed upon global code of ethics which aim to provide and promote responsible, sustainable and universally accepted tourism. 

These great reads below will help inform your choices on responsible tourism

Responsible tourism

Ways to be a Responsible Traveller

Make no mistake, it’s not easy practicing responsible tourism. 

For so long the world has adopted a specific way of going about doing things; habits have been formed and peoples psychology has been shaped. 

But if you travel as much as we do it’s super important to recognise the impact you have as a traveller and your effect on the places and people you visit. 

There are super simple ways to incorporate principles of responsible tourism into your everyday lifestyle, like choosing to not buy plastic packaging and instead using reusable alternatives, or skipping meat meals most days of the week. 

But ethical tourism is so much more than plastic and meat. 

Here is a short list of 11 ways you can positively impact responsible tourism 

  1. Purchase electronic tickets
  2. Pack your own reusables
  3. boo k a one way flight
  4. Purchase locally sourced 
  5. Do your research around animal tourism
  6. Choose responsible tour operators
  7. Don’t over bargain for a good price
  8. Stay in local b&bs
  9. Volunteer your services
  10. Don’t hire cars
  11. Teach others to be responsible travellers

These are only a few examples of responsible tourism but are a great starting point on your ethical tourism journey.

In 2019 Chris and Laura Travels received a Gear Sponsorship from our friends at Kathmandu.

They have created an informative series around sustainability and how their products are sourced and manufactured you can check out here. 

Read more of our responsible travel articles using the links below

responsible toursim

The dark side to the wildlife tourism industry

We’ve always loved animals and wildlife.

We loved going to the zoo and seeing them in the enclosures, but being so young we never asked questions as to why they’re there and how they got to be there. 

There are a lot of cruel practices and unethical conditions that wildlife are forced to endure for the sake of a tourist dollar.

Whilst it can be such an emotive experience, riding elephants or petting a Tiger, most of these animals are subject to harsh, abusive & cruel practices. 

They are kept in poor conditions and undermine the concept of ethical tourism and fly in the way of being a responsible traveller.

A lot of developing nations rely on the wildlife tourist trade for income and support, however whilst their motives may be pure, their practices are cruel, unethical and always done for the sake of a dollar.

responsible tourism
Laura washing one of the disabled dogs at Saved Souls Foundation in Thailand

Experiences such as visiting zoos with caged animals, elephant rides in Thailand, petting Tigers in Indonesia, overpopulated whale shark encounters in Mexico or one on one dolphin experiences in marine parks, the tourism industry is filled with cruel practices.

Not all businesses are sustainable tour operators so making the right choice needs due diligence. 

Although this is a big business, Responsible Tourism is all about questioning your practices and making informed choices based on fact and potential harm to others.

Please make sure you educate yourself prior to engaging in wildlife activities around the world and ensure your choices are about appreciating wildlife in a non-harmful way, and where possible contributing to conservation and preservation of that species.

Read More about our whole series on Sustainable Wildlife Encounters

The Australian Giant Cuttlefish: An interview with Scott Portelli 

The benefits and challenges of Tourism

Once you make a decision to be a responsible traveller you will see first hand how your experience and money positively impacts the communities wildlife you encounter.

Some of the main benefits of responsible tourism can include:

  • Positively influencing change and awareness
  • Help protect the environment
  • Generate a new form of tourism
  • Protect wildlife 
  • Support local communities
visiting a local community in Ecuador

The impacts of irresponsible tourism however can be profoundly harmful and their effects are felt far beyond the places you visit; they include:

  • Supporting cruel wildlife practices
  • Causing harm to wildlife
  • Desecrating species poached for tourism
  • Contributing to climate change by way of ecological destruction and interference
  • Developing communities cannot maintain this form of tourism so will suffer in the long run
  • High levels of waste produced
  • Increased strain on communities.


Christopher Aiello
Christopher Aiello
Christopher is the head writer and co-founder of Chris and Laura Travels. Having travelled to over 27 countries and counting, he has a passion for adventure travel in a responsible way. Christopher and Laura currently live in Melbourne but share their time between down under and the Canadian Rockies of Alberta. We aim to inspire others to get outside and explore through our storytelling imagery and video. Keep up to date on where we are by visiting us on our Instagram page or find out more of our story on our About us page.

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Chris & Laura

Australian and Canadian freelance photographers & storytellers addicted to travel,  inspiring you to travel the world.


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