There are many ways in which you can help to support and sustain a local community when travelling, but one of the best and most enjoyable ways is to shop local. Avoid lining the pockets of middlemen selling imported goods or giving money to international chains where little if any of the money will remain in the country. Spend your money where it can make a real difference to the local economy and community.
Shop local for souvenirs
Don’t be tempted by the imported, tacky and cheaper souvenirs typically available for tourists in city centres and the main tourist spots and attractions. Instead take a stroll down the back streets and look for smaller shops and street market stalls selling unique and locally-produced products made by local artisans, craftsmen, artists and designers (with no “Imported from…” label in sight). By buying directly from the makers you will be supporting their work and helping to maintain or create a demand for their products.
Help to keep traditions and the local culture alive
Purchasing local and hand-made souvenirs also helps to preserve the traditional techniques and craftsmanship of local artisans and keep a vital part of the local culture alive. When you buy directly from an artisan or craftsman you get the chance talk to them and discover the stories behind the articles they are making. The mementos and souvenirs you take home will have so much more significance and meaning and you will be able to share the stories you were told.
Visit the local markets
Local food and farmers’ markets not only have some of the best and freshest produce available but they are a great way to get a glimpse of local life. There is usually a mouth-watering array of local produce from seasonal fruit and vegetables to cheeses, meat, fish, wine, home-baked bread and cakes, sweets, chocolates, preserves, spices, oils etc. etc. which you will find hard to resist even if you have absolutely no need to do any cooking.
On the other hand if you are self-catering or you fancy the idea of a picnic, don’t head for the nearest supermarket. Stick with the markets and get the freshest and best produce available whilst supporting local suppliers, producers and farmers.
All over the world items are sold made from unsustainable or endangered plants and animals. Hardwoods, furs, corals, ivory, reptiles, animal skins, ancient artefacts are just a few examples. Although selling these products may be legal in their country of origin and, in the interest of supporting the local economy you might be tempted to buy them, you should avoid them. If in doubt about the origin of a product, read the label and/or ask the vendor what the product is made from. For more information on endangered animals and plants visit the Souvenir Alert Campaign (a joint initiative between the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and WWF).
2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development
The United Nations has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and in one vey small way you can contribute to this – shop local.
“With more than one billion international tourists now traveling the world each year, tourism has become a powerful and transformative force that is making a genuine difference in the lives of millions of people. The potential of tourism for sustainable development is considerable. As one of the world’s leading employment sectors, tourism provides important livelihood opportunities, helping to alleviate poverty and drive inclusive development.”
World Tourism Day message 2015 by United Nations Secretary-General, Banki-moon