By Andrés Muñoz

While most travellers like to relax and enjoy, we forget that tourism, with all its benefits, is also a major driving force that harms communities, environments, and more. When travelling you should choose places where you can be a responsible tourist.

Don’t just visit a faraway location, but be a part of its growth and evolution instead. Here’s a list of places you can visit to bring positive change.

Norway

The Norwegian Tourism Agency’s slogan is “Powered by Nature”, which is a great start! The conservation of nature in Norway is not just the responsibility of a few individuals or companies but a community-wide initiative. 

Norway’s Green Travel section offers a vast range of places to stay and things to do. Norway offers it all, from sustainable hotels to catalogues of green activities and lists of tourist sites that the fewest people usually attend.

Vietnam 

While tourism has advanced some areas of Vietnam, other parts of the country haven’t been able to flourish, as they’re located in remote or rural areas. Sustainable Vietnam is a Vietnam National Administration of Tourism initiative that promotes projects across the entire country. 

From tours in the country’s north to things like artisanal soaps and memory boutiques, you’ll find many sustainable activities to help the country grow.

Costa Rica

The Central American nation also follows Norway’s “Powered By Nature” slogan, as it draws 98-99% of its power from sustainable resources. Costa Rica has also broken world sustainability records, using 100% sustainable energy for 110 consecutive days. 

Visitors should visit the Corcovado National Park, where 3% of the world’s biodiversity is located. Exploring the park includes a 20-km trail that courses through rivers and deep rainforests, where you have a chance to spot a danta (or tapir) and a jaguar if you’re lucky! You can also go on a volcano tour, coffee tour, or visit the Cahuita or Manzanillo National Parks.

South Africa

The continent of Africa is in dire need of tourists. During the pandemic, national park attendance in South Africa dropped by 96%! This affects tens of thousands of jobs and environmental education programs scattered across hundreds of schools in the African nation. 

With restrictions relaxing, visit the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where visitors will be able to see elephants, rhinos, lions, and more.

Belize 

Some schools of thought promote a return to the more traditional and ancestral medicine forms. The Elijio Panti National Park is perfect for reconnecting with the natural world. Existing members of the Maya community run the park, notably Maria Garcia, niece of famous healer Don Elijio Panti, after whom the park is named. 

Visitors can take a Medicinal Trail tour, explore various native medicinal plants, and join the ceremonial and medicinal workshops coordinated by Mrs Garcia.

Bahamas 

Far away from the more frequently visited scuba diving and snorkelling areas lies a massive underwater sculpture of a girl, holding what seems to be the weight of the water on her shoulders. 

Made by British sculptor Jason deCaires Tylor, it is the largest underwater sculpture in the world. It represents the weight of the burdens we as a society are casting on the ocean and the issues we are handing over to future generations.

New Zealand

Part of the reason New Zealand was picked as the film location for the Lord of the Rings was because of its immensely varied landscapes, and the country’s sustainable tourism industry has flourished since then. Tourism New Zealand aims to maximise the impact domestic and international visitors have across the four tenets of nature, society, culture and economy. 

This is not just eco-friendly tourism. It is an entire approach that enriches multiple layers of New Zealand’s society. One of their top attractions is Great Walks. This network of vast hiking routes is scattered across New Zealand’s North and South Islands, spanning 14,000 km and is peppered with thousands of cultural heritage sites to explore.

Colombia

Last but definitely not least is Colombia. With New Zealand’s landscapes and Costa Rica’s biodiversity, this South American nation has fought hard to shake off its violent past. It boasts some of the most breathtaking parks committed to protecting the environment and some of the best coffee tours in the world. 

Visitors might want to start with Chingaza National Park on the outskirts of Bogotá, then explore the coffee region of Armenia and Manizales. A great end to a trip here is in Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast, with tens of other stunning locations scattered across the country worth visiting too.

When planning your next trip, consider your visit’s impact and choose wisely! 

What other locations are making a change that we should include? Tell us about them in the comments section below.