Five ways to be a more responsible traveler

Sustainable and responsible tourism aims to retain the economic and social benefits of tourism. (Shutterstock)
Updated 10 March 2018
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Five ways to be a more responsible traveler

DAMMAM: The tourism industry allows us to appreciate and celebrate different cultures; but it can also help to build a better world.
A globalized world — with greater opportunities and access — has made it possible to travel to exotic and far-flung locations. According to a report by the UN, there are expected to be 1.8 billion international travelers by 2030. With the rate of increase averaging 3.3 percent, it is estimated that 43 million international tourists will join the marketplace every year.
In Saudi Arabia, the government is seeking to increase the number of visitors to 31.5 million by 2027 with the help of ambitious tourism projects that will see the easing of visa procedures and the opening of historical and heritage sites to visitors.
But, in the quest for the perfect selfie against the backdrop of Angkor Wat or the Northern Lights, how can we ensure that tourist sites remain protected for the future? Now that 2017 — the UN’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development — is over, the conversation around sustainable and responsible tourism persists. And the problems only seem to be getting bigger and more alarming.
Sustainable and responsible tourism aims to retain the economic and social benefits of tourism, while lessening its destructive social, cultural and environmental effects. Some examples of sustainable tourism are: Generating income and jobs for locals, and the conservation of ecosystems. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aim of generating 1.2 million jobs in the tourism sector, while preserving and increasing the number of heritage sites registered with UNESCO, are other examples of sustainable tourism.
Johanna Read, the Canadian writer and responsible tourism consultant behind traveleater.net, defines the idea as travel that protects destinations’ cultures, economies and environments. She believes that the word “responsible” helps us remember that each one of us has a part to play in making sure tourism helps, rather than harms, local communities. “Tourism that benefits the local community is essential for a tourism industry to be sustainable over the long-term. If local people are made worse off by tourism, in time they will no longer be welcoming of tourists,” she says.
“Consequently, the destination and industry will suffer. Crime can rise or residents will move away and the destination experience can become unauthentic — without the unique character that attracted tourists in the first place,” Read adds. And how many tourist destinations can we cite where high crime rates, unauthentic experiences or even too much commercialization hampers the travel experience?
Carol Patterson, a three-time winner of the Travel Media Association of Canada’s Best Environmental/Responsible Tourism Feature and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, opines that making sustainable travel choices can be overwhelming for people just learning about the concept. She suggests they start by booking tours or accommodation with small businesses where possible. “Often these businesses are very connected to local communities and know how to protect the environment and make life better for locals,” she says.
Patterson and other travel experts who raise awareness of responsible tourism have shared five tips with Arab News readers to ensure their travel choices do not cause harm to the host country.
1. Go local: Mariellen Ward, who publishes the award-winning travel site breathedreamgo.com, advocates staying in locally-owned and operated guest houses or homestays, and eating at local restaurants. “I also try and spend my money so that locals benefit — not multinational corporations,” she says.
2. Cultural immersion: Ward states that responsible tourism is about getting to know a new culture with an open mind and heart. “I travel and write primarily about India. I try to really get to know where the locals shop, eat and pray,” she says. Read, meanwhile, tries to blend in as much as possible by learning simple etiquette and local customs, advising: “Learn to say ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘it’s delicious’ in the local language.” Engaging and communicating with locals is always well-received and demonstrates an appreciation for their culture.
3. Pay fair prices: Buying from a fair-trade market or a cooperative ensures that you are buying goods that are home-grown or made by local craftsmen. Avoid aggressive haggling or bargaining, rather consider paying a fair price for their products and services that is aligned with market prices.
4. Discourage unethical practices: Using monkeys, snakes and elephants for tourist entertainment is an irresponsible practice, yet it sustains the livelihood of locals. Instead, visiting a wildlife park or sanctuary to see them in their natural habitat might be a better option. Discourage any practice where entrapped animals are used for entertainment and spend your money in a more ethical way. “When it comes to wildlife tourism, I try to make choices that will not negatively impact animals. For example, I won’t ride an elephant or patronize any place that is involved in cruelty to animals,” Ward says.
5. Be respectful of the destination: At the very least, you can be respectful of the destination by not littering, trashing or vandalizing public or heritage sites. “Being mindful of the culture can be something as simple as dressing respectfully in the country that you are visiting,” Read says. “Always keep in mind that you are a guest, respect them and their country. Always ask before you take a photo of someone, don’t complain about the dirtiness, or comment on how cheap everything is.”


Bulgari hotel: An Italian escape in Dubai

Luxury doesn’t shout its presence with bling or ostentatious features, instead it quietly whispers. (bulgarihotels.com)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Bulgari hotel: An Italian escape in Dubai

  • The “urban oasis” is currently the only hotel situated on the offshore Jumeira Bay island
  • Home to just 110 rooms, suites and villas, the sprawling low-rise property oozes Italian elegance with its minimalist aesthetic

DUBAI: Bulgari, the venerated Italian design house, has just five hotels around the world. And even in Dubai — a city crammed with luxury hotels — the Bulgari Resort manages to seem exclusive. The “urban oasis” is currently the only hotel situated on the offshore Jumeira Bay island, offering guests some respite from the city’s often-hectic atmosphere, even though it is literally minutes away from the pulsing heart of Dubai.

Home to just 110 rooms, suites and villas, the sprawling low-rise property oozes Italian elegance with its minimalist aesthetic. Master architects Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel — who are responsible for all the Bulgari hotels worldwide — have used a neutral color palette and custom motifs, such as coral-inspired lacquered steel parapets and mashrabiya-patterned accents, to give the hotel a sense of place.

Here, luxury doesn’t shout its presence with bling or ostentatious features, instead it quietly whispers, with fine materials — from Italian marble to sumptuous silks, impeccable attention to detail, and touches including the signature fragrance that wafts around you from the second you enter.

The hotel is responsible for a couple of firsts for the brand, including its ‘Little Gems’ kids club — where children are entertained with bespoke activities such as cooking classes and treasure hunts while their parents enjoy some downtime — and the global debut of the Bulgari Marina & Yacht Club, which has its own pool and recreation facilities, signature seafood restaurant, and 50-berth harbor.

All rooms and suites feature a walk-in closet, spacious balconies, smooth one-touch button controls, and bathrooms with standalone tubs boasting enviable views — making for some excellent Insta-fodder. The signature trunk-style mini-bar is as funky as it is functional, and the trendy basket beach bags are perfect for stashing your souvenirs — including designer knick-knacks from on-site concept store La Galleria.

The one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas offer private pools and butler service, but you don’t want to miss the resort’s circular central pool, where luxury cabanas with oversized daybeds and on-call service invite you to lounge the day away. Just adjacent is the crescent-shaped private beach, with the gentle waters of the Arabian Gulf offering perfect swimming conditions, even if the tip of the seahorse-shaped island mars the view slightly.

Whether you opt for a beach-and-pool day or a Dubai-sightseeing trip, your evening should definitely be devoted to the quintessentially Italian aperitivo experience at Il Bar, where an oval-shaped chrome counter provides a social centerpiece, and an outdoor terrace offers marina views. The seriously chic Il Ristorante (by lauded Italian chef Niko Romito) is just next door, and shares the terrace. Its tiramisu is one of the best in town, as is the freshly baked rustic bread.

Offering a more pared-back dining experience are La Spiaggia, a beachside restaurant and bar, and Il Café, the Bulgari take on a casual all-day dining destination which still features jaw-dropping design, and, in line with the whole ‘nothing is too much trouble’ service ethos, serves breakfast all day.

That ethos extends to the spa too, where therapists provide the ultimate in pampering using top-shelf products, including La Mer, in a soothing nature-inspired space. The use of rare precious materials, including grey Vicenza stone and green onyx, infuse the environment with a subtle opulence.

A 25-meter indoor swimming pool with its own cabanas, extensive facilities (including a shower offering a “Caribbean thunderstorm” experience), and private hammam, plus an exclusive Lee Mullins training program at the state-of-the-art gym complete the impressive recreation facilities at the resort.

If you’re looking for a classy, authentic ‘slice-of-Italy’ experience in the Middle East, then the Bulgari Resort Dubai is where you should check in.