Responsible travel

What is Responsible Tourism?

One would think that any region lucky enough to become a tourist hot spot should feel blessed and grateful, but in tourism the line between beneficial and harmful is very thin.

The ideas and practices of responsible tourism try to minimize the negative impact the mass tourism industry can have on the economy, social life, local culture or on the environment.

When talking about the social aspects, it is important that the people play a central role in the development of tourism in their areas. Involving the local communities in the decision taking process is an essential step in the sustainable tourism development. While rural Romania continues to be the poor relative of urban Romania, things could change for the better through a responsible tourism approach, which aims to distribute all benefits to the members of the community.

A key role in responsible tourism is held by the local culture, with the emphasis laid on promoting the local flavour and lifestyle, the traditions, the local gastronomy and crafts.

Spend Your Money Wisely and Locally

It’s hard not to fall in love with these places and the people inhabiting them when visiting Transylvania so giving something in return comes very easy. A good starting point is spending your money on local businesses. Forget about big chain hotels and go for something with local flavour. Search for heritage monuments, inquire about the local culture, be curious about traditions and customs. And maybe more than anything, try to replace the most famous and sometimes overrated tourist landmarks with places in which the tourists do not normally set foot. You’ll soon discover that this habit will enrich your travels.

Buying local products from local markets is one of the most clever things you can do. In a period when supermarket chains are grasping the market, there is even a local current that tries to make Romanians living in the city aware of the importance of such a habit. The small amount of money you pay farmers for their cheese, eggs, fruits or vegetables are the guarantee they can continue working their small scale farms. Also the full of flavor milk or cheese which come from the flower-filled meadows you see around villages is cheaper than the beautifully packaged products in the supermarket.

If the number of tourists that care about experiencing authenticity grows, the tourism industry will have no choice but to react to that demand. Perhaps that will help preserve some measure of heritage and culture.

Eco-Friendly Accommodations and Transportation Options

Lately a significant number of guest houses are embracing sustainable tourism. Implemented correctly, these sound tourism practises are not only assuring a long and healthy life for these kind of places but they are also cost effective.

Whenever possible travel by train, use buses or the public transport. It’s a good occasion to feel the vibe of the places you visit.

Cycling is the ideal way to visit new places. It does not only allow you to cover great lengths in a manner in which you can also feel the life of the places you see, but it is also healthy and environment friendly. We all know how difficult it is to spare time for exercising when travelling so a bike trip might just do the trick.

As many accommodations now offer bikes for rent and new bike trails were marked around Transylvania, how can you best enjoy  the slow paced  life of the places other than riding your bike through villages on their low traffic roads?

The Negative Impacts of Tourism

Over time, the destinations with a long-standing tourism tradition have managed to build an infrastructure capable to withstand tourist crowds and the negative effects that come together with them.

The places which are new to tourism do not have the means of defending themselves. This leads to overpopulation, to the gradual loss of the cultural identity, to gentrification, to heavy traffic and pollution and to reduced quality of life for the people left out of the industry. All these come together with a waste crisis resulted from the process.

There is more to the negative impact of tourism than meets the eye. The natural habitats affected and sometimes destroyed, the piles of garbage resulted, the animal exploitation and the huge environmental cost of long distance flights are problems which any touristic destination is facing.

Minimize Your Footprint

There’s no doubt that every living creature on this planet produces waste. It’s part of the process of being alive. But from all beings however, the humans are exceptionally good at producing waste. Wherever there’s a large group of people there’s an even bigger pile of garbage and as tourists we produce an enormous amount of waste that sometimes last forever. This process begins the moment we board our planes and continues throughout our whole holiday. But when we try to reduce our footprint we lift a huge weight from the shoulders of our hosts, especially when visiting places in which recycling is not the norm. And Romania is one of those places. In rural areas burning garbage and storing piles of waste on the open fields is common practice. You should think that the local people can even learn from you and follow your example so responsible tourism can help there where formal education fails.

Opting for the pure water of the local springs instead of the plastic shop-bought bottles, choosing the sweet and fruity snacks freshly made by the local women instead of the plastic packaged supermarket ones, picking up your own reward from wild fruit trees, having a traditional plastic-free picnic, like our grandparents used to enjoy back in the times, close to a small spring, breathing the meadow air, the silence and the countryside feeling, are just some authentic joyful and deeply relaxing experiences that will minimise your footprint, while placing you in the middle of a raw, nature-connected way of living .

Act Like a Guest

The Romanians are well known for their hospitality and especially in the countryside you will always be treated like an important guest. Be polite and patient with your Romanian hosts and you’ll gain insider knowledge on the local mentality and your experience will be richer and more authentic.

Use Local Guides

The same with hotel chains, the big international travel agencies try to take the lion's share of any new destination. Not only that they sometimes bring their foreign guides but they also use to follow the same routes. It's very probable you will end up in a crowd of tourists visiting some overrated destinations and missing on the authentic Transylvania. Almost all young people in Romania speaks English and as a second foreign language German, Spanish or French.

Local guides will be more than happy to show you the places they are so proud of and for sure they have the most conclusive answers about the present realities in Transylvania.