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How to Travel Responsibly

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This fall and winter, many of our favourite Indigenous tourism operators are open to welcome guests; others remain cautious or closed for the remainder of 2020.  We respect all choices made by Indigenous communities and businesses during this time. We respect all choices made by Indigenous communities and businesses during this time.

November 9,  2020 ~ For the next two weeks, Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health residents are strongly encouraged to avoid all non-essential travel. If you live in these areas, please stay close to home, limit your social interactions, and continue to support your local businesses. Now, more than ever, we need to work together to stop the spread so that we can continue to explore BC, soon.

Responsible tourism means that the experience creates a positive impact for all involved–not just the traveller. Responsible Indigenous tourism in BC means that travel includes consideration of all which is of value to Indigenous Peoples–their communities, languages, and cultures; water, animals, and lands.

Here are some things to think about as you plan your next Indigenous travel experience.

Travel is a privilege.

Travel is an opportunity to discover differences and learn from them rather than bring your day to day life on tour. Responsible travellers respect the guidelines set by Indigenous communities and seek to learn more about historical and cultural differences that inform Indigenous response to Covid-19. Understanding this will help you to be a responsible traveller.

Wait for your welcome.

For remote communities, including island communities, the fear of the virus, and the need to protect resources is significantly higher. Haida Gwaii, for example, is a unique and delicate ecosystem. In Old Massett, there are less than a dozen fluent Xaad Kil speakers, all over the age of 70. Haida Gwaii is closed to all leisure travel and non-residents during Covid-19 for the preservation of Haida lands and People. Respect specific requests to stay away and research community guidelines before planning your trip.

Keep your distance.

Follow the guidelines set by Indigenous leadership and health authorities in BC. All Indigenous businesses that open in 2020 are required to follow strict guidelines to protect visitors. As a guest, it is your responsibility to show the same care and concern for your host.

Seek and follow the wisdom of your Indigenous hosts.

You are a guest. Your off-the-beaten-path campsite discovery has been somebody else’s home for generations. That secret swimming spot you’ve found could be a sacred site or traditional fishing hole. The land is medicine for us all. For now, avoid travel into unknown backcountry and adhere to the advice of locals. Engage with animals in a non-invasive way and only with the direction of local guides.

Travel less. Stay longer.

Don’t chase destinations. Expanding your cultural knowledge is not a contest, and a non-stop itinerary can leave you feeling like you’ve checked all the boxes but missed it all. Choose a destination that allows you to stay, learn, and contribute in one geographic area. Practice travelling with intention, not hyperspeed.

Stay and spend locally.

Avoid an itinerary that takes advantage of local cultural sites but doesn’t contribute economically or otherwise to the local community. If you can book accommodation at an Indigenous lodge instead of a multi-level hotel or eat a meal with your Indigenous host instead of stopping for fast food, please do. Set a goal to put your travel dollars in the pockets of your Indigenous hosts.

Don’t create additional challenges for Indigenous communities.

Currently, communities are conserving resources to sustain themselves throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and do not need any additional challenges that increase community vulnerability. Wildfires, stranded or injured backcountry visitors, and increased pollution to waters and lands place extra strain on Indigenous communities and resources. If you just can’t keep away from the wild, please enrich your experience by increasing your respect for the water, plants, and animals that have sustained the people for millennia.

Come prepared and think sustainably. 

Bring all of the items that will help you adhere to current health guidelines without challenging the resources of Indigenous communities, including drinking water and hand sanitizer. Another negative impact of travel is an increase in carbon emissions. You can’t build relationships or deepen knowledge as you zoom past en route to the next too-short experience. Stay local and consider moving between places in alternate ways to increase the time you have to learn and engage. Walking and water tours are kinder to the environment and offer a higher return to both hosts and your travel party.