Ethical luxury: The rise of high-end eco tourism
Travelling is all about making memories, and whether you’re on an adventure holiday trekking in the Andes or spending a fortnight sunning yourself in Bora Bora, those are the things you’ll take away with you to look back upon fondly for years to come. But long-haul travel can often mean we leave behind just as much as we take with us, packing a hefty carbon footprint and adding to the environmental impact on some of the most beautiful destinations in the world.
With so many incredible places to see and amazing things to learn, many of us aren’t quite ready to swap the jet-set lifestyle for a weekend camping in rainy Britain, and if you’re a lover of luxury, then the chances are that you never really will be. Thankfully, though, there are now a handful of forward-thinking holiday companies which are leading the way when it comes to sustainable travel, and choosing a more ethical and eco-friendly getaway is easier than ever before.
Once upon a time, ethical luxury would have been considered an oxymoron, but these days many high-end travel brands are becoming more conscious of their impact. Take luxury eco travel brand, Boureco, for example – which prides itself on helping hotel lovers to find the best boutique eco hotels, all whilst inspiring hoteliers to improve their sustainability and social responsibility and to communicate their efforts better, so that luxury travellers can make informed decisions.
It goes without saying that the travel industry contributes to a significant amount of waste and pollution worldwide, and even the most cynical amongst us must by now be aware of the need to go green. Demand for luxury travel companies that can offer the best of both worlds is at an all time high, with the biggest and best-known brands under pressure to lead the way.
Sustainability is no longer the niche consideration it once was, and these days it is considered a priority. Holidaymakers expect the companies they book with to be as responsible, ethical and sustainable as possible, and the luxury travel industry has taken note. It’s not just about going green though, and the impact on local communities has also come to the forefront in recent years.
From swapping packed coaches run by international tour operators for small minibuses driven by local guides to encouraging guests to shop for locally made souvenirs, many luxury travel brands are doing their best to minimise any negative effects that tourism brings, flipping them on their heads to ensure local communities benefit from additional jobs and a boosted economy.
Some travel companies run charitable challenges to some of their most popular destinations; from scaling Mount Kilimanjaro to trekking the Great Wall of China or sell their own fundraising merchandise, all in the name of a good local cause. Others are going one better still, setting up their own charities in support of humanitarian projects within developing countries across Africa, Asia and South America. Take Original Travel, for example, which has invested nearly £800,000 in such projects across 30 developing countries since 2009, spanning programmes that include child protection, vocational training, economic development assistance, preservation of cultural and natural heritage, and safeguarding the lifestyles of indigenous people.
Doing our bit
Of course, it’s not entirely up to travel companies to ensure our trips are more ethical, sustainable and all-round better for the planet, and we can all make small changes to our luxurious getaways to minimise our own impact. From cutting down on internal flights and reducing our consumption of single-use plastics, to avoiding wildlife treks that use noisy vehicles that encroach on animals’ territories, a few small changes could make all the difference – and ultimately add up to create a much greater impact.
Try taking reusable water bottles and coffee cups with you on your next trip, and collect any debris you find in the sea whilst snorkelling or diving. Buy gifts from local sellers, and don’t forget to tip hard-working locals for good service. If time allows, then you could even take some time out of your five-star hotel for a few days and do some volunteering. From community development to conservation, there’s plenty you can do to help.
And better yet, giving something back on your next luxury holiday could make it the most rewarding and memorable getaway you’ve ever been on to date.