Two worlds meet every time someone travels from one country to another. Travellers, tourists, discoverers, we are all of these at different times. However, without a shadow of a doubt, we are always guests. The countries we gain such joy from visiting are our hosts. The very pleasure of a holiday can rest on this sometimes delicate balance.
There are many ways to travel and encounter new environments, but we inevitably leave traces behind us as we pass by. Warm, generous, unassuming, but sometimes dangerous and permanent. We learn a bit more each time we travel. Every region is different and yet we are often faced with the same questions, doubts and our own certainties. We wanted to bring together what we think is most representative of the beha- viour and attitudes which should be encouraged in the form of an ETHICAL CHARTER FOR TRAVELLERS. We think that learning to discover other cultures without judging them, trusting in your good sense and bearing a few pieces of advice in mind make for a good holiday, as well as guaranteeing the sustainable development of our planet.
Thanks / Circulation :
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved in preparing this text. Its circulation is strictly limited to members of the “Action for Responsible Tourism” Association (ATR) who have been awarded “Responsible Tourism” certification by AFAQ/AFNOR or who are in the certification process. This circulation is one of the many conditions for obtaining this certification. As far as we are concerned, this text is purely for educational purposes. When all is said and done, the suggestions made and the “advice” given simply bring together and formalise things you all know. Nevertheless, we think that this little reminder can only be beneficial. We hope that you enjoy reading it. Bon voyage !
Respect guarantees a better encounter
One of the attractions of travelling is the different people and cultures you encounter. However, every culture, religion and lifestyle is subject to rules and traditions which must be respected and understood, rather than judged. You cannot travel without showing respect and humility for the people, property, culture and lifestyle of the country you are visiting. This respect is conveyed by adopting simple attitudes on a day to day basis.
Every country has its own pace. In some cases, haste and impatience are not the best ways of encouraging warmth.
In some countries, attire which is too tight-fitting, too revealing, too ostentatious or too casual is liable to shock. The same is true for codes governing body contact (stroking a child’s head, a man shaking a woman’s hand, sitting next to a woman, kissing in public, showing someone the finger, etc.).
A good photo requires the co-operation of your subject, without disregarding him. Photographers have everything to gain from taking the time to build up a climate of trust, asking permission to film or take a photograph (from the parents in the case of children) and complying with any refusals.
You should only promise to send photos to the people you are photographing if you are certain that you can keep your promise (including when compensation or payment is requested). Using a Polaroid means you can honour your promise immediately.
Having the recommended vaccinations avoids bringing diseases into the country you are visiting. It is important to follow the recommendations of the WHO when taking malaria treatments. Overdosing on them runs the risk of increasing strain resistance, to the detriment of the local population.
Sex tourism is a violation of human dignity condemned by law. At first sight, it doesn’t always look like prostitution. There are numerous examples of travellers who return from some country or other astounded by the “fantastic sexual freedom” (!) of its inhabitants, without even realising that it is only motivated by the pervading poverty.
Money, property and food don’t have the same value everywhere
The difference in standard of living between a traveller and the population of the host country, if any, can be a source of lack of understanding and abuses. In some cases, being welcomed into a village or family means a great sacrifice for the local communities. What is offered to the traveller and what he offers must be measured according to the local value.
Gifts and presents are not innocent gestures. They may sometimes take on a condescending, contemptuous or misplaced connotation (for example, throwing coins or sweets to children in order to get rid of them). Presents, gifts and tips which are too generous given the general standard of living in the country you are visiting destabilise the local economic balance. Children who receive money for photos or because they are begging no longer go to school and earn more money than their fathers. This can create major distortions in family structures (lack of respect for fathers and elders).
Some gifts may prove dangerous if they are given out randomly, especially drugs. If they exist, hospitals and dispensaries are often better able to manage them. Similarly, sweets and sugary things have consequences long after we have left (tooth decay).
Using local hotels rather than State-run or foreign hotel chains, local transport and remunerated services offered by the local community (guides, cooks, mule-drivers, porters, housework, etc.) is often the best way of enabling them to benefit directly from the money from tourism.
A camera or simply a pair of shoes may be the equivalent of several months’ or years’ salary according to the standards of the country you are visiting. Flaunting them or treating them without due care may be seen as shocking or be misunderstood.
Culturally, haggling is part of the commercial tradition of some countries. Refusing to do so is often misinterpreted and may contribute towards increasing the cost of living. On the other hand, you should not forget that sums which are derisory for a visitor may be extremely large from the viewpoint of the person receiving them.
As a general rule, travellers should be wary of abusing the temptation destitute people have to sell items which are sacred, traditional or which are part of the country’s heritage (except if they are made exclusively in order to be sold to tourists).
Leave behind only footprints
The countryside and cultural sites are often a country’s main tourist attractions and the main reason why travellers go there. Travellers therefore have a responsibility towards the environment of the host country.
Travellers must avoid leaving their waste behind them, whatever type it is. All means of limiting waste from tourism should be used (biodegradable packaging, etc.). It is better to limit the waste you take in your luggage which will have to be left behind.
It is better to take non-degradable waste (plastic bags, batteries, etc.) back with you after a holiday in a country which does not have any waste disposal infrastructure.
Some types of waste (paper, toilet paper, etc.) can be burned easily, although, in some cultures, fire is sacred, and it may be seen as shocking to use it to destroy waste. As a general rule, you should find out about local waste management practices. In some regions, food tins, for example, may be left behind for the local populations, who recycle them into jewellery or useful objects.
In some regions, it is better to use gas or other means of combustion which do not require much wood to do your cooking. If no gas cooking solution is possible, it is better to use dead wood found on the ground. It takes a lot of green, living trees to make charcoal.
Some fragile ecosystems mean that you need to take special precautions, i.e. do not deviate from the footpaths or drive off the track, limit trampling, do not use motorised means of transport, etc.
Watching animals must not change their natural behaviour or disturb their daily lives. It is better to keep to what the animals consider to be a safe distance and avoid making too much noise.
The local teams guiding you when watching animals are sometimes prepared to break these rules for money or to please you. However, when all is said and done, watching an undisturbed animal is more interesting than watching an animal stressed by your proximity.
Feeding animals changes their diets and may be dangerous. For example, monkeys become aggressive and steal.
We recommend that you do not use tape recordings or other decoys to attract and watch the fauna, and do not touch the animals, both for their own health and for that of human beings.
Avoid fishing in lakes or seas where certain species are rare or threatened.
It is important to abide by the regulations in force in reserves or nature reserves. Paying the admission fees or tourist taxes enables the sites to be conserved and preserved. Asking for a receipt for these fees avoids these funds being misappropriated.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which aims to protect more than 2,500 animal species and 30,000 plant species under threat, prohibits trade in skins, ivory, animal shells, coral, seashells and the import of live exotic animals.
Drinking water is sometimes a rare commodity which must be used sparingly and not contaminated. Whenever possible, travellers must give preference to phosphate-free washing powders and biodegradable soaps and detergents, do their washing and wash themselves downstream of homes and away from drinking water supply points.
It is always better to get permission to use the village well or pump and not wash nearby, even if the locals do so.
“The history of future generations is written in their cultural heritage”
Each country’s cultural heritage is unique and irreplaceable. It requires special attention and qualified care, as well as preventive measures against the risk of deterioration and destruction. The challenge is not only to preserve this heritage today, for our generation, but also to safeguard it for those who come after us.
The main causes of damage to this extremely vulnerable heritage include inappropriate restoration, pollution, bad weather and the impact of tourism. Simple gestures, such as stroking the hand of a marble statue or a fresco are disastrous when they are repeated thousands of times by informed or unin- formed visitors. People think that these sites are permanent and, just because they have survived for centuries, that they are eternal.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Bear this thought in mind when you are on holiday. While this conservation requires the intervention of specialists, local governments and international institutions (such as UNESCO and the ICCROM), it also presupposes a collective effort and individual awareness.
At the same time as enjoying this heritage, avoid:
Defacing works of art, sites or monuments, particularly with graffiti which is often indelible.
Buying items or relics which might come from looted sites.
Removing historically or symbolically unique and valuable archaeological or cultural artefacts.
Bringing back « souvenirs » which are part of the natural heritage, including underwater objects.
Moving stones and objects.
Climbing on the sites .
Knocking the decorated walls of frescoes with your rucksack.
Dropping litter and leaving rubbish behind you, and make sure you respect the measures taken by the government authorities to regulate tourist flows or entry to sites, as well as enhancement policies and work to restore and preserve monuments ».