It’s hard to get around the fact that sustainable and ethical travel has made its way to the forefront of the travel industry and as someone who has always tried to behave as a respectful guest no matter where I travelled, I welcome this ‘trend’ with open arms!
The Travel Tester is all about cultural experiences and both in our destination pieces as well as our reviews, I always strive to become more conscious about the impact we can all have on the environment, small companies and local communities we interact with.
While I don’t believe that ‘Flight Shaming‘ is the way forward, and I personally don’t intent to stop flying altogether, I do believe that as consumers we should all take a fresh look at the way we can contribute to a better world.
And the good news is that there are many ways to do this!
I am a big believer that everybody should have the right to make their own choices, and there is no point in telling anyone else how to behave. But that said, as a professional travel blogger with a platform that daily influences others on their travel- and purchase decisions in one way or another, it would feel like a waste to me to not take the opportunity to talk about the small changes we can make and hopefully cause a bit of a mind-shift.
On top of that, I also believe that anyone that calls themselves a professional blogger should also add a set of values when it comes to researching and publishing articles, working with brands and running a business. More about that below.
Before I share some of the changes I’ve made in the way I travel (that are easy for you to implement as well, if you want), I would like to say a few more words about what I mean with ‘being a professional blogger’.
I started blogging as a hobby around 2005 (read the full story here) and started earning money with blogging since 2014. Since then, I’ve started working on my blog full-time and even launched a second website in 2018, called ‘The London Tester‘ (with travel tips for Dutch travellers/expats going to the UK & Ireland) and a third website in 2020 called “The Space Tester” (with fun ideas for space-related experiences and products).
In the past years, I’ve worked hard on my technical skills (becoming better at things like writing, photography, making video), my business skills (think about networking and working with brands, but also creating my own products) and overall blogging skills (from coding and learning about SEO to implementing affiliate links, managing social media and reaching out to readers via newsletters and surveys, etc.).
There is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes of a blog than you would think and you might understand that the regular media coverage of ‘yet another influencer’ trying to rip companies off with fake followers, an awful attitude or incapability of delivering what was promised can be painful to watch sometimes.
That is why a few of us have stepped up and created a core of serious travel bloggers with a common goal of further professionalizing our industry.
SOCIAL TRAVEL SUMMIT – THINK TANK
I’ve been part of the Social Travel Summit since 2015, both as an attendee as a speaker. This unique conference is organised by iambassador (a professional travel blogger network that I’m part of) in cooperation with Traveldudes (of which I’m also part of the team) and the German Reiseblogger Kollektiv. At the conference, top international travel influencers meet with industry representatives to exchange expertise, experience and ideas.
A key objective of the Summit is to focus on the way the industry and bloggers already work together and find practical ways to improve it. One important component of the Summit is the “Think Tank” session in which delegates will have the opportunity to brainstorm and discuss issues affecting the industry-blogger relationship.
You can find the Think Tank Reports from 2014-2019 on the STS website, but from each report I’ve picked the topics and action steps that resonated with me the most and combined them into my own ‘Code of Ethics’ that you can find below.
THE TRAVEL TESTER CODE OF ETHICS
AS A BUSINESS OWNER…
- I expect to be paid for my work, not my opinion.
- I ensure that my influence and services are adequately rewarded.
- I view press trips/blog trips/fam trips, group or solo trips, as an important and effective way to gather content and research destinations. They are not ‘perks’ but a necessary part of the job.
- I will not falsely represent my online influence/statistics, or inflate my statistics by buying false readers, followers, fans etc.
- I will not falsely claim an expertise or skill that I do not have.
- I expect to work with companies, tourism organisations, public relations & advertisers/marketers, and I expect my readers to both understand and accept the commercial nature of that relationship.
- I will always seek to agree clear objectives with commercial partners and make clear any limits of cooperation (eg. subjects I will not write about or promote).
- My first loyalty is to my readers for whom my credibility and individuality is crucial.
- I undertake to publish/deliver all content that I have agreed in a professional and timely manner.
- My standards apply not only to my own blog but also to my ‘brand’, across all social media platforms.
AS A CONTENT CREATOR…
- I only publish about experiences and discoveries on trips that I (or a guest writer) have actually made and/or thoroughly researched with the help of locals.
- I only write about my experiences subjectively and all opinions expressed are my own.
- I will protect the editorial integrity of my content.
- I always clearly label any advertising, advertorials, sponsorships, competitions, product tests or 3rd party reviews, published by me and declare any commercial relationships or associations.
- I respect the copyright and moral rights of others.
- I will use my platforms to educate, inform and encourage readers by building environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- I will not let my editorial independence be compromised because a trip is hosted. However:
- I will seek to clarify in advance the expectations on both sides.
- If discrepancies, complications or negative experiences occur in the course of a trip, I undertake to consult first with the host to clarify and, if possible, resolve the situation. In exceptional circumstances, if the situation cannot be resolved, I reserve the right not to write about the venue/trip/experience and inform the host of the reasons why.
AS A TRAVELLER…
- I will offset my CO2 emissions once a year for all air, train and car travel I make, both as part of my job as a travel bloggers as for personal trips.
- I will choose transport alternative to flying when possible. From The Netherlands, we have the luxury that a lot of destinations in Europe are easily accessible by train, so when I know well in advance that I’m travelling from Amsterdam to for example Belgium, France or Germany, I will look on NS International to see my options. Also in other countries, travelling by train is a good alternative since it’s better for the environment, more relaxing than flying ánd you get to see much more of the country! For my website The London Tester, I prefer travelling with the Eurostar, or even with the ferry, for example to Dover, Hastings, Hull or Newcastle!
- When travelling by plane (or any other transport, for that matter), I bring my own prepared snacks, so I don’t have to use the single-use plastic (and let’s be fair – gross) airplane meals on my journey. Instead, I am snacking on nuts, granola bars, (dried) fruit, vegetable chips (crisps), salads, chocolate/popcorn and (yes!) solid cheese (as long as it’s not spreadable, it’s not considered a ‘liquid’, so you can bring it) & crackers. Enjoy, but note that any fresh food items (fruit/veggies/meat/dairy, etc.) should be consumed on the plane for most countries, as you’re likely not able to get them through customs afterwards.
- I will choose accommodation options that provide a more positive environmental impact, for example because they are located on walking distance to attractions I plan to visit or have green initiatives such as recycling- and water saving schemes.
- I make sure towels & linen are not washed daily.
- I report any leakages quickly, so they can be fixed by the property as soon as possible to not waste more water.
TOILETRIES, FOOD & WASTE
- I bring my own toiletries and don’t use the mini-bottles of shampoo, etc. from the hotel.
- I don’t order room service to control my portion sizes and the type of food I consume.
- I will choose local restaurants over big chains to support the local economy.
- I will choose vegetarian and vegan options as much as possible.
- TIP: Keep cup for take-away drinks.
- I try and avoid buying bottled water in plastic.
- I refuse plastic bags or packaging when I shop or eat out.
- I won’t leave things behind in any natural environments I visit and will dispose of trash only in designated places.
TOURS & ACTIVITIES
- I will choose for locally run tours and book through local tour operators where possible.
- I will buy souvenirs from small shops that sell products made by locals, for example craft markets.
- When visiting sacred or community-based locations, I will dress modestly.
- When choosing my travel destination, I try and avoid cities grappling with over-tourism and go for the lesser known places instead. Have you read our guides to Magdeburg (Germany), Exeter (England), Grado (Italy), Nelson’s Dockyard (Antigua), Amarante (Portugal), the Yaeyama Islands (Japan), Seinäjoki (Finland), Oviedo (Spain), Galle Fort (Sri Lanka) and Luxembourg for example?
- I will consider visiting a destination out of the high season. For example, have you read our guide to visiting Finnish Lapland in Summer yet?
- I will avoid attractions that use captive wild animals for entertainment (think about: elephant rides, visiting captive whales, petting tigers and swimming with dolphins. I enjoy seeing these animals in the wild, where they belong instead!
- I will choose activities that get me in touch with nature. For example, check the following activities: learning to sail, visiting a spice plantation, going on a safari, going bird-watching, visiting a national park, doing a stargazing tour, going kayaking, going snowshoeing, going hiking, seeing a natural phenomenon and going snorkelling.
Thank you so much for reading this far, I hope it made you think about your own ethics as a travellers and perhaps a blogger! Spread the word and remember:
Small changes DO have a big impact and by doing your part wherever you can, you create a ripple that can grow into a wave of change