An article written by Nina Ahmedow*
As tourism in Europe is slowly opening up again (at least within the EU), many people are eager to get back to exploring different countries and relax after the psychologically taxing pandemic. As a travel blogger, I would love to get started with travel again. But I am cautious and prefer to wait and see what a possible second wave of infections will bring.
Nonetheless, for those who wish to start traveling again, I have put together a list of responsible tourism projects that are worth supporting. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that as humans we need to find better ways to live with nature, the animals, and each other. While I’m a firm believer in the responsibility of big corporations and governments, I also believe that solidarity between individuals and support for positive projects is vital if we want to move in the right direction.
I sometimes wonder how people can travel to other countries without taking into account human rights and other social and political issues. But it’s not always easy to find projects that are worth supporting which is why I put together this list of responsible tourism projects.
As a general rule, I believe the smaller and more local a project is the more difficult it may be to get more insight into their work but the more serious you will find these initiatives to be. Once you get very powerful stakeholders involved the focus is most certainly going to switch from benefiting poor people, the environment, or local communities to financial gain for those who are already rich.
So here are some responsible tourism projects you should consider supporting.
Responsible Tourism Projects to Support
Plastic Fishing in Amsterdam
Starboard is a boat tour operator in the Dutch capital that offers private boat rentals and company cruises, on top of participating in the Amsterdam Light Festival. But it’s their canal cleanups that have caught my attention more than anything. In order to make tourism in Amsterdam more sustainable, the company organizes monthly plastic fishing trips. This is one of the very hands-on responsible tourism projects on this list where you see your impact immediately.
But here’s the thing, very often these projects can be marketing schemes to attract tourists. You never really know what else a company really does to minimize their environmental footprint. But Starboard uses electric boats for their tours and makes sure that all the waste created on their boats is recycled. What’s more, the plastic that is fished out of the water during the canal cleanups is then turned into useful items, toys, or souvenirs.
A Hostel For the Common Wellbeing in Athens
I’ve been living in Athens for six years now and have seen the effects of the financial and refugee crises in the city. And so, I couldn’t leave WELCOMMON Hostel off this list. This hostel in my old neighborhood of Exarcheia supports sustainable tourism but also focuses on arts, culture, and social change. After the elections last year, migrants and refugees in Greece have come under increasing pressure, and WELCOMMON Hostel is working towards their empowerment through language courses, professional training, and workshops to acquire useful skills.
The hostel is also accessible which is extremely rare in this city. If you want to see another side of Athens WELCOMMON Hostel is a project that can introduce you to social justice movements in the Greek capital and as such provide a ray of hope for a better future for everyone. All profits are donated to social and environmental projects that benefit those who really need them.
A Women’s Cooperative in Amman
Although women’s rights are one of the top priorities of the Jordanian government there is still a long way to go in their empowerment. Supporting projects that allow women to make an income on their own terms is something all travelers to Jordan can do. The Iraq al-Amir Women’s Cooperative helps women to be financially independent in a country where less than two-thirds of all women have employment. In general, women often don’t benefit from tourism directly so finding responsible tourism projects that involve women is very important to me.
And to make things better this happens with a focus on keeping the local culture and traditions alive. The women craft ceramics, paper, and soaps and also acquire the necessary skills to run a business. As a visitor, you can participate in one of their paper making workshops which makes for a meaningful experience. I truly believe everyone should travel to Jordan at least once. But it’s even better if you can combine your trip with a look into artisanal crafts.
Explore Indigenous Canada
I spent some months in Canada while in university, and there are definitely things I miss about living in Montreal. But aside from watching a lot of APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network), I didn’t really get to learn much about Canada’s Indigenous cultures. I imagine that tourists have even less of an opportunity to do so, but that’s where the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada steps in.
They list an abundance of Indigenous experiences and events on their website which you can even filter by region or culture. So whether you are looking for dedicated museums, Indigenous camps to stay in, want to go rafting, or see the aurora, there are ways to make Indigenous cultures a priority. I think on a trip to Canada it’s essential to support responsible tourism projects that involve Canada’s Indigenous population.
Discover Berlin Through the Eyes of Refugees
Guided tours are all the rage in Europe, and from free tours organized by students to pub crawls, there are a ton of options for travelers. But what about the people that are often spoken about and rarely given the platform to tell you about their cities? Querstadtein offers city tours led by refugees who now live in Berlin (or Dresden). These tours go beyond the typical sightseeing tours. The guides introduce you to aspects of their lives as refugees in Germany and the struggles they have to face.
For those who understand German, Querstadtein also offers tours by formerly homeless people who will tell you more about the people you pass every day but perhaps never take the time to get to know. While similar tours exist in other major European cities, there has been a lot of criticism regarding the motivation of both the tourists as well as the organization behind them. Do tours by homeless people turn homelessness into an attraction? How do they really help to provide shelter for those who need them? These are serious questions we must ask if we want to support truly responsible tourism projects.
Experience India Off the Beaten Path
India is one of the most popular travel destinations for the seasoned traveler. And yet, most people only visit places like Delhi, Agra, or Goa. India Untravelled wants to introduce people to the many different facets of this huge country. They show you rural areas of India where you get to learn about local cultures during your time in homestays. This provides the population in the villages with an income that is necessary to sustain their culture and traditions.
Many villages in India are shrinking due to migration. Too often, there are no income opportunities in rural areas so people have to move to the cities to fight for their survival. Responsible tourism projects must address this if they want to be truly sustainable. By participating in India Untravelled’s authentic experiences, you are doing your part to support India’s rural population.
Help the Conservation of Black Rhinos in Namibia
The black rhino is a critically endangered species that is protected in Namibia’s Palmwag Concession. This is where Wilderness Safaris set up its Desert Rhino Camp which offers rhino tracking both on foot and by vehicle. The camp is powered by a hybrid system and also solar energy for individual tents. On top of the rhino tracking, Wilderness Safaris also organizes birdwatching excursions as well as safaris that allow you to see some of Namibia’s most impressive animals.
This responsible ecotourism project works with three local communities and pays them both an annual fee as well as a percentage of the profits from the Desert Rhino Camp. Getting local communities involved is very important if responsible tourism projects want to be more than a PR campaign.
Adventure Trekking With a Female-Owned Company in the Himalayas
Trekking is considered a male domain in Nepal. 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking challenges this view and trains women to become guides. The three Nepalese sisters who founded the company wanted to provide safer treks for female travelers but also empower Nepalese women. Many of the thousands of women the organization has trained since 1994 belonged to socially disadvantaged groups such as lower castes.
During their training, women not only learn how to be trekking guides but also get English lessons. Upon completion of the program, they can choose to remain employed by 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking or can move on to something else. If you choose to join one of these treks in the Himalayas you can be sure that the majority of the profits go to the women’s salaries.
Tour Norway in an Eco-Friendly Way
Norway is internationally known for its natural beauty (and because it’s one of the wealthiest countries in the world!). But when a lot of tourists go to Norway to experience the country this threatens the very nature people want to see. Fjord Tours is a sustainable tour operator that has won the European Sustainable Tourism Award and carries the Eco-Lighthouse certificate.
Fjord Tours places great emphasis on sustainable means of transport, such as trains and electric ferries and buses. So if you’re looking for an individual tour through the gorgeous landscapes of Norway why not choose one of the tours offered by this sustainable Norwegian tour operator?
Go on a Women’s Tour (by Women for Women) of Pakistan
Women in Pakistan are still quite restricted, not by law, but because of societal conventions. The Mad Hatters is a woman-owned and -run tour operator that also focuses on supporting other women-run initiatives during their tours. With a tour that goes beyond the most popular places in Pakistan, you can actually get to know the country and some of the local communities.
And what I love about The Mad Hatters is that the tour’s description is very honest: Sometimes the standards of hygiene will be below what you are used to. There won’t always be internet or electricity. And men are not used to seeing groups of women travelers. None of this is glossed over meaning you can really trust The Mad Hatters with what they are talking about and doing.
Support Sustainable Tourism in Peru
Peru has become more and more popular with tourists as Machu Picchu was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This has unfortunately brought many irresponsible travelers to Peru who threaten the survival of the Indigenous spiritual heritage. Perú Grand Travel is a tour operator that focuses on sustainable tourism and offers a variety of tours aside from Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail.
On top of its zero litter policy, Perú Grand Travel only employs persons from Cusco, purchases most of its equipment from Peru, pays fair salaries, and provides health insurance to its staff. Booking a tour with Perú Grand Travel means you get to experience the beauty of Peru while giving back to local communities.
Travel Around Iran the Vegan Way
Traveling as a vegan can be difficult sometimes. When you travel you want to experience the local cuisines as well. But often, food, especially for guests, consists of non-vegan dishes. Nowadays, there are vegan tours in several European cities. But what if you want to explore a country and are unsure how to find vegan food there? I created a vegan guide for Greece for exactly that purpose.
But are there responsible tourism projects that address this issue? Yes, Iran Vegan Travel offers vegan tours for those who want to experience Persian food, culture, and hospitality. I’ve always had Iranian friends and can vouch for the deliciousness of the food, and I’ve even included a Persian recipe in my vegan Ramadan recipes from around the Muslim world (which you can obviously cook outside of Ramadan as well). So what are you waiting for? Experience Iran the vegan way.
Join a Tour of South Africa With a Fair Trade and Black-Owned Operator
Tourism to the African continent is growing, especially in terms of safaris in the southern part of Africa. But very often the companies are owned by foreign investors. Southern Africa 360 offers tours in and around South Africa with a strong focus on fair trade (they are certified). But they are also an exclusively Black-owned tour operator in South Africa.
Whether you want to go on a safari in South Africa or Mozambique, there are several options for you with Southern Africa 360. But they also do Nelson Mandela themed tours that give you more history on this great South African leader and the history of the country. Because there’s more than beautiful nature and wildlife in the southernmost African country.
Support Ethnic Minorities in Vietnam
In many developing countries over the world, difficult realities are even harsher for members of ethnic minorities. Vietnam is no exception. Sapa O’Chau is working towards educating and training members of ethnic minority communities. They employ them as trekking guides but also organize homestays with families. This empowers people and provides income opportunities beyond agriculture.
On top of that, Sapa O’Chau helps women from the Hmong community sell handicrafts. This allows the women to make a living without having to abandon their cultural practices and artisanry. Instead, it is through their traditional art that they can earn a living and provide an education to their children. Sapa O’Chau is a social enterprise that tackles the various issues ethnic minorities deal with hands-on.
So there you go, those are some of the responsible tourism projects you can support after the pandemic. Which one will you join first?
*About NINA AHMEDOW
Welcome to Lemons and Luggage! I’m Nina Ahmedow, a travel content creator who has traveled to more than 20 countries on three continents. Born and raised in Germany but currently living in Greece, I love exploring the world through vegan food. Here, I share travel and sustainable living tips from a vegan perspective.