Responsible Tourism and Children

There are two sides to responsible tourism – one is being kind to the environment and the other is being respectful to the local culture. When you travel with a child or with children the challenges that responsible tourism presents can be made greater.

For a start you have limited mobility, especially if you have a young one in a pram. It is also necessary to carry more belongings on holiday – pram, nappies, wipes, baby clothes, teddy, books etc. These all take up room. The added weight means a higher carbon profile for a holiday. Moreover, the chances are that you are more apt to take a taxi rather than negotiate a public transport system. This again means increasing your carbon footprint.

Whereas you might be inclined to go out and explore local restaurants, bars and small businesses if you are a group of adults without children, the inclination is reduced when you have children who need a more structured routine. Mothers and fathers are more likely to check into a big hotel (probably run by a multi-national) than try a local guest house. This is money lost to the local economy. Also Hilton, Intercontinental, Hyatt etc. represent a monied monoculture that is a threat to local culture. Money spent at these places is mostly funneled into company profits that benefit share holders and top executives.

Having children with you is also more likely to make you eat in the hotel restaurant. It is convenient and the perception is that the food is cleaner and perhaps more ‘acceptable’ to a child’s palate. Again this is somewhat of an insult to local culture and works against the idea of responsible tourism.

The best way to combat this trend is to make an effort to introduce your children to the local culture in a fun way. I recently found a website that introduced fun things for children to do in Bangkok. It lists the zoos, animal shows, museums, parks, aquariums and other places that would interest kids. These places are all owned and run by Thai people and reflects Thai culture rather than globalization. By using your imagination and with a little research it is often possible to get out of the sanitized environment of the hotel and hotel swimming pool and experience some of the local colour.

At the same time with patience and light packing there are ways to keep your carbon footprint down when traveling with children. In Bangkok, for example, the Sky Train and Metro is actually faster and more convenient then taxis, especially during rush hours. What is required is a bit of research.

The temptation is to shield children from all harm. If that means shielding children from an entire culture maybe you shouldn’t have gone abroad for your holidays in the first place.

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