Tourism is one of the human activities with a great impact on local nature and culture. Not only that we often choose to travel as far away from home as possible and use highly polluting means of transportation, such as a plane or personal car, but we also often consume more water and electricity than normal or waste the food.
The first step towards responsible behavior is to be aware of the negative impact that our decisions have when we plan our vacations, and then to understand that we can have better tourist experiences if we are more careful with nature and the places we visit.
Ecotourism, in addition to caring for nature, introduces the human communities’ dimension, the benefits they have from ecotourism, and the conservation of protected natural areas.
Below we have written some recommendation that will help you not only to plan your responsible holidays so that you have a positive impact on the areas you will visit, but also to have better experiences.
1. Focus on a small area
There is no point in travelling hundreds of miles a day in search of long-distance targets and missing a lot of other interesting things. The first step is to focus on a specific area and research the tourist attractions and activities available there. It is true that especially in Romania we do not excel in tourism promotion, but in recent years more and more destinations are making consistent efforts: Sibiu , Oradea and ecotourism destinations have their own well-developed websites, with enough details to plan your holiday.
2. Use the car as little as possible
Now that we have agreed to focus on a smaller area, the next step is to avoid using the car as much as possible locally, and instead opt for hiking, biking, horseback riding or even a walk, to frames or paddles by boat. The destination can also be known through activities such as birdwatching or movement in nature, which sometimes involves stepping out of your comfort zone for a healthier lifestyle and slowing down for slower ways to discover an area. You will get tired, you will sweat, and in some cases, you will get dirty, but these things should not be an impediment. You just have to have the right equipment and choose your routes and activities according to your physical training. If you don’t trust yourself, you can also opt for a guide that will help you discover the area.
3. Stay longer
A weekend (1-2 nights) is not enough to discover an area and contribute to a positive economic impact for the destination. Crowded weekends are the periods that produce the greatest negative impact on the environment and the quality of services due to the steep increase in the amount of water needed, the need for electricity, parking spaces, etc. On the other hand, service providers are often overworked and increase the chances of not always having the best experience (long waiting time for dining, the boarding house is full, crowded at attractions).
That is why it is better to stay at least for an extended weekend or, if possible, to plan your holiday during the week.
4. Travel in the off-season
In summer, especially in July and August, but also on certain holidays, things can get very complicated due to congestion. Not only will the hostels be full and you will get annoyed due to the congestion on the roads or the lack of parking spaces, but it is usually even more expensive to travel during the tourist season. Instead, other times of the year can give you unique experiences and less crowded places for perfect photos. From a trip to the Danube Delta that is best to visit, from April to June, to observe the roar of deer in the Land of Thorns , in October, or a bike tour through the Saxon villages in the Transylvanian Hills in September.
5. Look for certified accommodation for good ecotourism practices
In choosing the accommodation we usually look at the price, arrangement, facilities and location. We look for reviews on various platforms and ask for the opinion of friends. But in addition to all this, some accommodations strive to become more responsible for the natural environment and the local community. Extremely widespread in developed countries, certification systems guarantee that an accommodation unit meets a minimum of criteria according to the system in which they were assessed. In Romania, most services are certified according to the Eco-Romania ecotourism certification system, an independent system developed and operated by the Romanian Ecotourism Association for more than 14 years, and which currently has 40 boarding houses and tourist programs with valid certificate .
6.Use local guides
Local guides are essential to help you discover the area and better understand the local culture. Although a guide involves additional expenses, it can open your door with information and local stories, but also the gates of the locals for authentic experiences that you will fondly remember. And don’t forget that every extra penny you leave in the local community will help the locals have a better life and perform as a quality destination!
Examples of responsibly guided tourism programs that offer unique thematic experiences:
- The story of hay in Eco Maramureș
- Therapy with nature and local tradition in Ciocănești , Ţara Dornelor
- Explorers among volcanoes and dinosaurs in Ţara Hațegului – Retezat
7. Buy local products
It encourages the local economy and supports small local producers and craftsmen. Whether they are authentic souvenirs or traditional or more innovative goodies, the quality of the products is usually much higher than what you find in regular trade, and the taste is indescribable. However, we recommend that you buy from reliable and authorized sources so as not to have unpleasant surprises later. And pay attention to what you buy: make sure it is produced locally and not one made overseas and countries and only sold locally.
8. Be respectful of nature
Do not leave waste of any kind in nature or anywhere you are not sure will be collected and transported to a landfill. It is best to try to minimize the amount of waste generated. In addition to plastic, which is the biggest problem, sometimes even some harmless food scraps can lead to the attraction of wild animals and, over time, to the change in their behavior that they are used to feeding on them and associating man with the idea of food. .
It is also better not to interact directly with wild animals, no matter how small and harmless they may seem, because they can be stressed or in the case of chicks they can be abandoned by their parents.
9. Talk to your friends about what it means to travel responsibly
It takes a lot of persuasion work to be able to mobilize as many people as possible to be more responsible when we plan our holiday.
10. Consume balanced
You are on holiday, but also on this wonderful planet called Earth, with more and more limited resources. Thus, try to consume thoughtful water, energy and food during the trip. The holiday is by definition the period in our lives when we want to feel better, but we can do this by being responsible and consuming wisely, as many of us were advised by our grandparents.
This article was made within the PET Romania project, developed by the Romanian Ecotourism Association, in partnership with the Ţara Dornelor Ecotourism Association, the Retezat Tourism Association and the Măgura Ecotourism Association, with the financial support of Active Citizens Fund Romania, a program funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants 2014-2021 .
The content of this material does not necessarily represent the official position of the EEA and Norwegian Grants 2014-2021; for more information visit www.eeagrants.org .