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The Guide to Responsible Travel in Africa

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Defining Responsible Travel in Africa
walking safari responisble travel africa

Taking a Walk in Northern Tanzania

© Anouk Zijlma
Ecotourism, Green Travel, Sustainable Travel, Responsible Travel -- are all terms widely used by tour operators to promote trips to Africa. So how can you separate the marketing from the "real thing"? This guide to being a responsible traveler will help you figure it all out.

Defining "Responsible Travel" or "Sustainable Travel"
Responsible travel allows local communities to earn a fair income from tourism; it supports conservation; it supports local community initiatives; and it tries to limit the environmental impact of the vacation itself.

How do you make sure your trip to Africa is "Responsible" and truly guilt free? Follow the steps below and book a trip to Africa that will offer you a relaxing and adventurous vacation, as well as a chance to benefit the country you are visiting. Being a "Responsible Traveler" in Africa does not mean you have to ride a bike and stay in a mud hut (although I'd recommend a little of that too). You can enjoy a luxury safari and still be "responsible" by ensuring that the company you choose is truly "responsible" in how it operates its lodges and engages with the local community.

What's the Difference Between Ecotourism and Responsible Travel?
Ecotourism really started the "green travel" trend. Where the focus was on the physical environment and conservation. Tourists wanted to make sure their vacation did not disrupt or damage the local environment. But in the past decade, the term "Sustainable" and "Responsible" travel has been coined to reflect the fact that the people matter as much as the environment and wildlife in Africa. Involving local communities is in fact an important key to successful conservation efforts. Tourist dollars need to trickle down to local communities that are eking out a living close to wildlife parks, in order to stop poaching of resources.

People going on safari in Africa are also widening their focus beyond just wildlife. Visiting a local school, or going on a walking safari with a Maasai warrior, is just as important as seeing a lion hunt. A trip to Marrakech is not just about admiring the medina and the souks. Visitors are taking cooking courses or visiting local hammams to truly enjoy the local culture and appreciate the Moroccan people, as much as the physical environment.

Throughout Africa, local community involvement is absolutely essential for tourism to be sustainable and successful. And this is what "responsible tourism" aims to promote.

Above all, Just go!
Tourism is the mainstay of many African economies, it supports thousands of local jobs. Just taking a trip to Africa is a good first step. The key is to try and spend your money in the country you are visiting, thereby helping the local economy. If you have paid for your entire trip up front, with all meals included, most of those profits will end up staying with the tour operator. Try and benefit the communities you're visiting by shopping, eating, traveling, and staying local.

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