How to Be a Responsible Traveller

21 December 2021
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Travel is an incredible gift. It can open our eyes to the unique cultures and spellbinding beauty of the natural world. However, the increased movement of people puts a strain on communities and their environment, and it is our responsibility to protect the world as we know it.

Did you know? Pentravel supports The TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit initiative which supports sustainable tourism projects around the world.

By following these practical steps, you can do your part towards protecting the places you visit for generations to come:

Do your research

Learn about the culture before departure. Read up on the local customs, traditions and social conditions of your destination.

  • Learn a few phrases in the local language to connect with the local community in a more meaningful way.
  • Respect each destination’s unique history, architecture, religion, dress, communication codes, music, art and cuisine.
  • Always ask permission before taking photographs of other people.

Respect the issue of over-tourism

Being a responsible traveller means taking extra care in planning trips to destinations battling the adverse effects of over-tourism. In 1959, there were about 20 daily tourists visiting Rome’s Trevi Fountain. Today, there are reportedly 1,000 people in front of the fountain at any given time. In 2018, the destinations most affected by over-tourism include Venice, Barcelona, Cinque Terre, Machu Picchu, and the Taj Mahal.  

  • Research the restrictions in place at each destination you will be visiting, eg: entrance tickets for Machu Picchu have split entrance times, while the Galapagos Islands have strict rules in place, including the requirement that tourists can only travel with authorised guides.

Support the local community

Choosing where you spend your money can have a massive impact on the community, so it is vitally important to consider your decisions around eating, sleeping and shopping.

  • Buy locally-made products.
  • Respect local vendors and artisans by paying a fair price.
  • Do not buy counterfeit products or items that are prohibited by national/ international regulations.

Be a champion of the environment

Reduce your environmental impact by being a guardian of natural resources. Managing waste is a significant issue in developing countries, and the education levels when it comes to recycling and minimising waste may not be the same as what they are in South Africa. For this reason it is essential to take steps towards safeguarding the environment.

  • Say no to plastic bags from shops and instead put your items in a backpack or a cloth bag.
  • Eat and drink in the cafe rather than going for take away.
  • Reduce your water and energy consumption whenever possible.

Support animal welfare

Wildlife has, and will continue to have, a substantial role in the travel experience. Coming face-to-face with extraordinary animals like elephants, tigers and dolphins for the first time is an irreplaceable experience. However, many travellers are unfamiliar with the issues many animals face as a result of tourism development. In many cases, the welfare of the animal is compromised and the experience for both the traveller and the animal is not positive. About 75 percent of animal attractions around the world actually perpetuate wildlife cruelty, according to a study from Oxford.

Remember that for one hour of entertainment for yourself, you could be contributing to a lifetime of distress for the animal.

The TreadRight Animal Welfare Policy asserts that animals under human control should have:

  • Freedom from Hunger & Thirst: Easy access to food and water designed to meet animals specific dietary needs for optimum health
  • Freedom From Discomfort: Animals must be provided with an environment consistent with their needs, including shelter from the elements
  • Freedom From Pain, Injury & Disease: By prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  • Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour: The provision of sufficient space, appropriate “natural” facilities and the company of animals of its own kind
  • Freedom From Fear & Distress: The provision of conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering


  • The TreadRight Foundation
  • The World Committee on Tourism Ethics
  • The UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

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