I had planned to write a handy guide of the best travel planning tools to put together your own best holiday that also gives the most benefits to local tour operators, guides, accommodation providers and restaurants.
It turns out that isn't so easy to collate – and is, in part, why travellers are lured by travel companies which own the airline they fly on, the hotel they stay in, the shuttle they transfer with and the day trip tours they book through the concierge. Cruise holidays can be the worst offenders for this poor attempt at trickle-down economics for travel.
Unfortunately, there is no such catch-all website – of TripAdvisor, Viator or Booking.com scale – that specialises in ethical travel: where the emphasis is to book locally owned restaurants, tours and guesthouses and avoid chain hotels. And although TripAdvisor and Booking have filters for results based on your preferred hotel chain, they both seem to lack any sort of filter for eco-friendly or low-carbon certified options.
There are, however, a few smaller websites that are gaining traction in this travel niche. Many are based in the US and Western Europe, but travellers can use them because many act as intermediaries, showcasing the accommodation and tour options available even if you then must book directly with the vendor.
The type of traveller who doesn't book much until they arrive at their destination, when they are able to compare properties, rooms and (hopefully management) can easily support local operators by avoiding the big name chains – but who has time for that? Not me. But if you're one to obsessively book months in advance look at responsibletravel.com or i-escape.com. They have a variety of sustainable tourism options which have verifiable accommodation, locally run tours and high environmentalism standards for all vendors listed.
British site greentraveller.co.uk specialises in eco-friendly European breaks emphasising rail options over flights, but of course for Kiwis a minimum three-hour flight is part and parcel of any international holiday, no matter your green goals.
American offering kindtraveler.com operates a "give and get" initiative, in which you donate about US$10 ($14) which is donated to local charities. You, in turn, get exclusive discounts when you book directly with the hotel provider.
A more upmarket option is bouteco.co, which promotes independent accommodation providers that meet stringent eco-standards and offer high-spec design and service (apparently, luxury environmentalism isn't an oxymoron).
And even if you still prefer to use a local travel agent, it isn't a hassle to insist on locally owned accommodation, or at least shun the all-inclusive option which will only entice you to stay within the gated community of a resort instead of interacting with locals and letting them show off their part of the world – which is where the real value of your holiday comes from.
Help travel dollars trickle down
- Leave the resort or hotel!
- Choose markets and restaurants that specialise in local ingredients
- Opt for accommodation providers that have certification on environmental and social standards
- When tipping, do it in cash directly to the person
- Book tours independently and choose local guides
What are your thoughts?
Written by Josh Martin. Republished with permission of Stuff.co.nz.