Vote with your feet and plan your next trip to the destinations that need it most…
When popular travel destinations go from holiday hotspot to headline news, it can have a devastating effect on local communities – and it often takes time for visitor numbers to recover, long after any potential risks have subsided. However, tourism can play a key role in recovery; particularly in destinations such as Sri Lanka, where, at its height in 2019, tourism was the country’s third largest foreign currency earner.
That means that we, as consumers, can make a genuine difference to countries that have suffered from national or international events – while also knowing we’ll be welcomed with open arms, and getting to experience the destination without the crowds. And while it goes without saying that any choice of destination should be informed by FCDO advice, it’s always worth doing some research into how the situation is on the ground.
Here are some simple ways to plan that trip to Sri Lanka, and know that your tourist dollars are going in the right direction:
Tap into local, up-to-date information from people on the ground to get a sense of how the situation stands currently. In Sri Lanka the local tourism sector shares updates via a dedicated website which includes video testimonials from recent international travellers.
Choose a reputable tour operator that puts people and planet on a par with profit, like Responsible Travel, which only works with sustainable accommodation, or B-Corp certified Selective Asia, which organises bespoke, culturally-focussed trips.
Opt for genuinely eco-friendly accommodation. Travalyst partners are working to share sustainability information and make it easier to spot the good guys, while local-owned groups, such as Jetwing, have robust sustainability initiatives in all their hotels.
Think about what you’re spending your money on, day to day. Generally, that means looking out for small, locally-owned businesses instead of multinational chains. If you’re eating out, get advice from your accommodation or speak to locals about good places to try, and consider what sort of food they serve (if it’s locally-grown and seasonal, then great; if it’s obviously flown in from abroad, then less so). Shopping for souvenirs? Seek out local markets or cooperatives which focus on indigenous arts, crafts and skills, rather than cheap foreign imports.
The same applies for any tours you might choose. Community-owned experiences, where the stakeholders are the people you’re visiting, will ensure you’re not being purely voyeuristic – and that your money is going into the right pockets. And look out for any tours offering animal encounters; always check if a company has a responsible tourism policy before booking, for example, elephant trips, turtle releases or whale watching. Make sure to avoid buying animal souvenirs, including shells and coral.