Responsible tourism: How to have a positive impact while traveling?

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Yesterday, I had a big shock after calculating my carbon footpring (calculate yours here). I realized I am one of the worst polluters in the world. In fact, my carbon footprint is almost 3x of where I should be to avoid climate catastrophe, and something like 5x the world average !

And all this is mainly due to one habit : traveling.  Indeed, I love traveling and I travel a lot.  Long weekend trips to closeby paradise islands in Thailand or Indonesia are one of the perks of living in Singapore. But with Ryanair flights, I used to take flights almost every month when I lived in Europe as well.


So, even if I would become vegetarian or stop using aircon, that would represent almost nothing compared to the impact of stopping traveling.

But that perspective is already making me depressed. Crying

So, what else can I do?

1. Prefer less but longer trips to monthly long weekends

Definitely something I will consider. I’ve always wanted to “spread the fun” but traveling for longer periods allows you to go to more remote and off-the-beaten track places as well, so that’s a great compensation.

2. Donate money to offset the emissions

Some airlines offer that possibility when booking your flight. Otherwise there is websites like myclimate.org to calculate the CO2 emissions of your flight and donate money to offset it, to climate projects in developing countries.

3. Have a positive impact on the destination

Well, that one is a small compensation, but it seems more important than ever now that I realized how much negative impact I have just by coming to that place.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), out of every 100 $ spent on vacation by a tourist from a developed country, only 5$ stays in the destination’s economy.

By traveling to developing countries, you have the power to directly help the poorest people through your consumption decisions. You can support the local economy by:

  • eating in local bouts instead of big chains,
  • buying from artisans, instead of malls or
  • staying in guest houses,

But why not going further? Here are some additional tips to help you maximize your positive impact while traveling.

Book unique tours via social enterprises.

There are several social enterprises that bring underserved communities into the tourism value chain, and most of the time are giving back their profits to a Foundation arm to help even further the community (healthcare, education…).

  • Visit.org lists social enterprises in tourism. All organizations featured on the platform reinvest 100% of the profits to the community and respect the local traditions and the environment Backstreet Academy (Asia) is a travel platform that allows you to meet local artists and craftsmen all over Asia, who can introduce you to their art or practices, whether it is traditional fishing or the cooking techniques of their country. These local craftsmen have been selected and coached by Backstreet Academy. The company has created a special program to enable artists and artisans in difficulty to earn additional income and recognition for their expertise. Unlike previous companies, Backstreet Academy does not return all its profits to the cause but tries to combine profit and social impact.


  • G Adventures has been offering responsible tours for all types of travelers for 20 years by working directly with the Planeterra Foundation to minimize the negative impact on destinations, promote responsible solutions and the economic growth of local communities. G Adventures works with local small businesses to ensure that tourists’ money is involved in the development of the country.
  • Lookalike (Southeast Asia) matches you with local communities and responsible tour operators instead of simply matching you to one tour guide. Local Alikers are on the mission to enhance the livelihoods at local communities across Thailand and neighboring countries.
  • Reality Tours and Travel (India) has been offering local experiences for 11 years (from bike rides to village and slum visits), and 80% of the profits go directly to Reality Gives, an association that runs educational programs in those same regions of India.  I’ve visited the Dharavi slums in Mumbai last year with Reality Tours and Travel, and the visit is really interesting and well organized.


  • SaveAGram (India) : Initially designed to provide a stable flow of income to villages impacted by floods in the Himalayas, SaveAGram offers a unique chance to experience the lifestyle of local villagers in India, enjoying home-cooked meals, taking advantage of the activities offered by the region and staying in traditional village houses. After a pilot in the village of Gaja, in the Indian Himalayas, SaveAGram extended the experience with a village in Kerala.

Book accommodation with a social and environmental impact

Here are just a few examples of booking platforms and hotels with a social and environmental impact:

  • GreenHotelWorld is a non-profit organization that offsets the CO2 produced by your overnight stay by contributing to poverty alleviation projects.  This is how it works: when you click to go to your favourite booking platform (booking.com etc.) from their website, they get a small commission that they use to donate to poverty alleviation projects, to promote their website and to advocate for a greener hotel industry.
  • KindTraveler (America) : Travelers give a $10 nightly donation to a local charity that positively impacts the neighborhood they are traveling to or to a charity of choice; as a reward for their donation, travelers unlock an exclusive hotel rate and special perks with curated hotels and properties throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Costa Rica. 100% of the donations raised on the Kind Traveler platform are given to charity, and the platform features eco-friendly and other conscious characteristics of the hotel itself (eco-friendly cleaning products, vegetarian options, local farmers programs, etc).
  • Sumba Hospitality (Indonesia) : this foundation is both a hotel and a hotel school, located on the island of Sumba, Indonesia, and launched by two Belgians. It aims to provide employment opportunities for the local population and break the vicious circle of poverty while protecting the environment and their culture. How? The hotel and its restaurant allow students to practice what they learn at the hotel school.  A responsible organic farm on campus also allows students to learn the methods to better cultivate the land and these products are used in the restaurant. This place has been recommended to me by a friend and has been on my to do list for a while!


  • Good Hotels (UK/Guatemala) are two hotels in the UK and in Guatemala that reinvest 100% of their profits to support social causes.  Can’t wait to test the one in London this december!
  • Makabata Guesthouse and Café (Philippines) is a social enterprise training centre dedicated to providing Philippine youth with hospitality skills and employment that will equip them for a successful move into the workforce. By choosing to stay at Makabata you will be directly contributing to Bahay Tuluyan, a local and children’s rights organisation that has been operating in Manila for over 30 years. Every cent generated goes back into our programs and services aimed at preventing and responding to abuse and exploitation of children in the Philippines.

Eat at social enterprise restaurants

Here are two examples of restaurants I came across during my trips or my online research:

  • Fair Warung Balé (Bali) : yummy balinese food in Ubud, Bali. The restaurant is so popular that you need to make a reservation !! 100% of its profits go the Fair Future Foundation and its Free Health and Medical Care programs. 1 meal = 2 free medical treatments. Their profit also funded their pediatric hospital building opened in 2016.  They impact 30,000 people per year.


  • Koto (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City) : the restaurant serves as professional platform for KOTO trainees, young people from disadvantaged background, to fine-tune their skills in hospitality services.  KOTO has trained over 700 students so far.  They also offer cooking classes. Will try it next time I go to Vietnam!

(Originally published on my other blog HowToMatter.org)


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