GOING on holiday, when it is done well and responsibly, can bring economic prosperity to local communities, conserve cultural heritage, and help to protect some of the world’s most fragile environments. For these reasons, tourism was recognised as a key driver of global development in the new Sustainable Development Goals.
So, how do you ensure that your holiday is doing some, or all of these things? Choosing holidays with obvious benefits to local people is the key to holidaying ethically: perhaps a beach hotel has a programme in place to employ and train local people, or perhaps there is a community-owned lodge, at the heart of a wildlife reserve, giving value to keeping endangered species or forests alive.
Instead of isolating you in an all-inclusive resort, or holing you up exclusively on a cruise liner, holidays that encourage you to visit locally owned restaurants and shops get you closer to the culture, nature, and environments of the places you visit, and offer more tangible benefits to their communities.
Responsible sun picks
Amalfi coast walking holiday, Italy
A week-long easy-walking holiday offers an alternative view of Amalfi, with trails that wind their way through Mediterranean mountains and lemon groves to villages away from the crowds. It is based at a family-run hotel in Agerola, and all meals are made with locally sourced produce. Foodies will love trying their hand at making traditional Neapolitan pizza, and the walks give plenty of time to visit bars, cafés, and bakeries.
Cost: From £869 pp for eight days, including UK flights. Includes all accommodation, most meals, tour leader, and listed activities.
Cuba cycling holiday
Because tourism is increasing rapidly, the need to travel responsibly in Cuba is of vital importance. This gentle cycling holiday takes you into the heart of Cuban communities, and offers time to swim at Caribbean beaches, explore Topes de Collantes national park, and take in the musical cultures of Trinidad and Havana. To ensure that your trip benefits the people you meet, you will eat at family-run paladares (restaurants), stay in privately owned home-stay accommodation, and shop at small handicraft stalls.
Costs: From £1849 pp for nine days, including UK flights. This includes all accommodation, local guide, support vehicle, transfers. Cycle hire extra.
A week in Jordan
In the centre of a region plagued by instability, Jordan still shines. Safe and inviting, this week-long adventure takes you into the heart of a fascinating culture. Visit the ancient cities of Jerash and Petra, camp out under the stars at Wadi Rum, and float in the Dead Sea.
This holiday is rooted in all things local: see how traditional Jordanian food, such as falafel, is made at local markets, and stay at a Bedouin-owned camp, where you will listen to stories around the fire, and learn more about a fascinating, ancient way of life.
Costs: From £1349 pp for nine days, including UK flights. Includes all accommodation, breakfasts, one dinner, tour leader, local guides, and activities.
Responsible snow picks
Husky safari in Finland
Snow holidays do not need to be ski holidays to be exhilarating. Opt to have a lower impact on the environment by, instead, learning to drive your own team of huskies through the vast Arctic wilderness of the Pallas-Yllästunturi national park, in Finnish Lapland. Cover 25-40km of trails each day across frozen lakes and snowy forests, and in the evening enjoy a stay in some remote wilderness cabins, with traditional Finnish saunas and a chance to spot the Northern Lights.
Costs: From £1625 pp for eight days, including UK flights. Includes all accommodation, most meals (all made with locally sourced produce), activities, local wilderness guide and instructor, and cold-weather clothing.
Northern Lights and whale-watching holiday in Norway
Say no to marine parks and say yes to seeing orcas in their natural environment. From November to January, Norway’s northern fjords offer an excellent chance to see orcas and humpback whales as they follow migrating herring. In the evenings, turn your gaze from the seas to the skies to spot another of Norway’s natural wonders: the Northern Lights. Food is sourced from local fishermen and from Sami communities, and you will make way under sail as much as possible, using the wind as your power.
Costs: From NKr8900 (approx £850) pp for five days (excluding flights). Includes all meals, and basic twin accommodation on board the boat.
Arctic sailing voyages, Spitzbergen
This holiday on board a traditional sailing vessel gives you the chance to learn more about, and explore, the Arctic environment just 600 miles from the North Pole, in a way that minimises your impact on its fragile ecosystems. Navigate deep into remote fjords, hike across Arctic tundra, and spot some of the 2000 polar bears that call this archipelago home. While here, you will participate in the “Clean up Svalbard” programme: collecting any litter you come across, you will open your eyes to the conservation and climate challenges facing the Arctic, and keep emissions to a minimum by travelling under sail as much as possible.
Costs: From €2260 (approx £1960) pp for eight days (excluding flights). Includes full-board accommodation on the ship, and activities.
Sarah Faith works for Responsible Travel, an online travel agency that offers more than 5000 responsible holidays. For every holiday booked, Responsible Travel offers to fund a day trip for a disadvantaged child.