What’s more awkward than telling a friend that the photo they proudly posted to Insta of them with an orphanage of Thai children is actually causing severe harm.
How do you explain to that friend that the orphanage is running solely to attract tourist dollars and that the ‘orphans’ have families who were financially desperate enough to accept cash in exchange for their child?
How do you then tell them of the emotional damage day visits cause to these children, who are failing to learn long-lasting love and only see it as a fleeting emotion?
It’s definitely not an easy conversation to be had, but when it comes to the welfare of children, animals and the environment, it’s something that needs to be done.
To help you (and us) get the message across without causing offence, we turn to two of the most responsible operators in tourism – G Adventures and Intrepid Travel.
Here’s how they suggest you break the news gently:
“HE THANKED ME, SAYING HE NEVER CONSIDERED THE BIGGER PICTURE”
Dan Coleman, National Sales Manager at G Adventures Australia & New Zealand, recently found himself in a similar situation and said although it was tough, the outcome was positive.
As a traveller, I had already broken most of ‘the rules’ of responsible travel before I’d been educated about them. But it’s never too late to learn, and to start making more responsible decisions whilst travelling!
I had an instance recently when I saw my best mate posting pics of captive wildlife while on holiday in Thailand. I wanted to be gentle in how I brought it up with him, but I did want to treat it as an opportunity for him to learn. I reached out via messenger, told him I loved that he was having a great time, and explained that I wanted to tell him about why such activities were harmful.
We talked about it again in person the next time we met and he thanked me, saying he never even considered how posing for a pic is part of a bigger issue.
“IT ISN’T ABOUT MAKING ANYONE FEEL BAD, IT’S ALL ABOUT EDUCATION”
Telling someone they’re in the wrong may feel like you’re about to crush their feelings but as Leigh Barnes, Intrepid Travel‘s Chief Purpose Officer, puts it, “it isn’t about making anyone feel bad, it’s all about education”.
Most of the time people are unaware they are doing something wrong. By engaging in a respectful conversation with your friend, you have the opportunity to influence how they behave next time.
He went on to say that the conversation should be more than just about pointing out what they’ve done wrong by noting what they could do differently for next time:
Responsible travel has many elements, and many are straightforward and easy. For example:
Support local business and accommodation; the local roadside café, the family-run guest house or visit a local tailor to have clothing made. By buying local, you’re directly supporting the country you’re visiting. It’s that simple.
It might be difficult but it’s important to remember that giving to beggars on the street can impact local people in a negative way. There are so many cases of kids skipping school or being forced by their parents – some have even been drugged to increase earning potential. The same goes for orphanage tourism or school visits- these practices would be unthinkable at home, so the same rules apply overseas.
Respect the people:
As curious as you may find the locals, don’t be surprised if they’re equally as intrigued by you. Follow the local customs, dress appropriately, don’t stereotype a culture from one bad experience, keep an open mind and you’ll have a much more mutually enjoyable experience.
Respect when taking photos:
You should ask before taking someone else’s photo – often just raising your camera with a questioning look will be enough.
Don’t give locals money for their photograph as it becomes another form of begging. Again, talking to them and learning about their life can result in a much better experience for you both, as well as a much better photograph. If you say you will send them the photo, be sure to follow through. Don’t take photos of kids – this seems to be a trend on social media and dating apps at the moment and while the kids might ask for a pic, but it’s disrespectful and ultimately children aren’t tourist attractions.
Take rubbish with you and avoid single-use plastics:
Avoid single-use plastics like plastic bags, straws, coffee cups and water bottles. Bring all of these from home and refill as you go. When you do have rubbish, make sure you dispose of your litter responsibly.
On top of this, you should endeavour to collect any rubbish left my others – taking extra steps such as this are at the crux of responsible tourism.
- READ: Intrepid Travel is raising funds to protect porters worldwide
- READ: G Adventures’ new guidelines on how to be a Child Safe Traveller
- READ: Australia declares orphanage trafficking as modern-day slavery
Have you had to tell a friend that they’re breaking the rules of responsible travel? Tell us how you did it below.
Share this story