Education on responsible travel is the key.
The initial group meeting is a good time for this information to be followed up and given specific details in relation to the trip you are leading.
- You should emphasize the importance of mutual respect.
- Explain the reasons why we have these guidelines, that we are guests and are privileged to visit local homes and communities. We want to have sustainable tourism so travelers in the future can also visit and enjoy the same experience.
- Cover the General Guidelines in brief, gauging the topics you think require the most emphasis for this particular trip and passengers – e.g. dress, photography.
- Do not be overbearing, but clear and informative. Have some fun too explaining what happens when rules are broken. It can be useful to share why you as a leader believe in responsible travel and allow some of your own style to show through. This introduction sets the tone for the rest of the trip and allows you to set the ground rules and make clear your expectations from the beginning.
- Distribute and explain country or trip specific guidelines.
Group members may also need a further briefing before entering particularly sensitive areas (e.g. areas of special religious significance). Tell them directly what to expect from the locals' behavior, the physical conditions of the toilets, shower, beds, etc. Inform them of taboos and their origins. Give them some handouts on language, hints on things they can do to communicate with the locals and generally sort out what sort of behavior you expect from them. Being prepared and informed allows travelers to actively participate in responsible travel efforts (and can minimize the risks of culture shock for them too).
Act responsibly yourself
You have incredible influence on a group's behavior. Lead by example. Treat the locals like the valued friends they are - and watch your group do the same, reassured that there is no need to be cautious or shy of these Asian people after all. Acting responsibly and with respect as a leader is perhaps the best way to get your group following suit.
Be strong on enforcing responsible travel policy
Explain to travelers during the initial group meeting that you are serious in your commitment to responsible travel, and behavior that compromises either the safety or comfort of the group is unacceptable. If people do something that is offensive take them aside and help them to understand what they should be doing instead. Explain what they will get out of respecting the rules - pride in respecting local cultures and learning more about the culture. If someone constantly refuses to follow these rules, take them aside and firmly tell them that their behavior is inappropriate. This does not necessarily involve getting angry or loud - indeed in accordance with local norms it is better if this is not the case - but can be a calmly stated “you have embarrassed yourself, you have embarrassed me as your leader and I cannot have that happening again on my trip". Sometimes other group members will support you in telling people their behavior is inappropriate.
Encourage open discussions/debates about styles of tourism. Get feedback from group members about things they found difficult. This can help you to develop ways of better preparing future groups. Give positive feedback to travelers too, thanking group members for their cultural understanding, reinforcing their efforts, noticing their attempts and passing on appreciation from locals.
Discussion with local operators
Guides/leaders should be in discussion with local operators about our responsible travel aims and how they can be achieved in a particular region. Knowledge of environmental issues and the affects of tourism may be lacking in the regions we visit and guides/leaders should play a pro-active role in the sharing of information.