Here at WAE we love travel, there’s no denying it. There’s nothing better than packing your bags and heading out to discover new experiences, new environments and new cultures. Heck, I’m heading out on a South Coast road trip this weekend. But with travel and tourism continuing to rise, it’s more important than ever for us to stop and think about how we travel. Are we being helpful or harmful?

Kathmandu has teamed up with investigative journalist Jan Fran to see first hand the true impact of tourism, both at home and abroad. Their crew delves into the realities of modern travel to see exactly what impacts we’re having on the places we visit. Coupled with a three-part doco, Kathmandu have released a report that examines how us Aussies travel, how we see ourselves as travellers and looks at the deliberate, or accidental harm, travellers may cause.

‘Travel and tourism has become a behemoth, capable of doing great good and great damage.’

– Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked, the Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism

Hold tight though, this isn’t just a horror story of Aussies on Tour, sinking Bintangs and desecrating sacred sites. The report concludes with tips and advice on how we can all be helpful travellers and places responsibility on each and every one of us to live and breathe the change we want to see in the world.

‘Harmful’ Travelling

Bucket list travel – the current rise in bucket list travellers is putting strain on a number of landmarks. Places like Machu Piccu simply weren’t designed to accommodate the number of visitors they receive each day. Similarly, at home, Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef are equally under threat from tourist overload.

Tourism Leakage – in a nutshell, money. Tourism leakage is all about where your tourist dollars go and one of the main problems with current tourism trends, is that the tourist dollars aren’t being spent in a way that positively impacts the people of the town, city, or even country of the attraction you’re visiting. In the worst cases, Zero-Dollar Tourists aren’t spending a single dollar that positively impacts the area they visit.

Helpful or Harmful, Kathmandu, Sydney, white sand beach, packed

Certain ‘white sand beaches’ in NSW are receiving more guests than they can cope with.
Photo by Kathmandu

‘Helpful’ Travelling

Get off the beaten track – this is kinda the number one takeaway from the whole campaign (IMO). Basically, if you’re travelling away from the hordes, you’re more likely to spend travel dollars with local businesses. Also, because you’re travelling somewhere that fewer people visit you spread the load, on the environment, sensitive areas and the locals.

Travel better – if you are going to hit up the bucket list, because let’s face it, it’s a bucket list for a reason, the best advice is to think about how you can travel better.

Kathmandu have gathered this advice from a range of experts so you can strive to be a helpful, not harmful traveller.

Tips For Becoming A Helpful Traveller

We reckon that most of these are just as relevant if you’re driving a few hours from home or linking a bunch of international flights.

Prepare For Adventure

  1. When thinking about which country or destination to travel, consider where and how you might be able to get off the beaten track and have a more authentic adventure.
  2. Tick the box to carbon offset your flight. The cost is usually small but it has a big impact. Qantas’ carbon offsetting program, Qantas Future Planet, invests in projects to protect Tasmanian wilderness and power renewable energy projects around the world
  3. Consider travel during off-peak periods for the ‘bucket-list’ destinations so the strain and impact on places is lessened (it’s also nicer).
  4. Pack a reusable water bottle. Iodine or Aquatabs are a simple and cost-effective method for water purification so you can cut down on single-use plastic waste.

Travel To Learn

  1. Visit one place you haven’t read about online on your next adventure.
  2. Ask the locals where they like to go, or challenge yourself take only public transport for a section of your trip so you learn more about the area you’re staying in.
  3. Research alternatives to the ‘beaten track’ or leave your options open for spontaneity when you arrive.
Helpful or Harmful, Kathmandu, nepal, porter

It’s important to make sure your travel dollars are going to locals, and they’re not being exploited to get them.
Photo by Kathmandu

Be Confident

  1. Learn some local words before you land such as ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘goodbye’, ‘toilet’, numbers 1-10 and ‘water’.
  2. Research basic customs and cultural practices of the country you’re visiting.
  3. Travel with the right gear and only what you really need – the lighter you travel the further you can go and the more adventures you can have.

Make A Positive Impact

  1. Choose local, ethical operators for tours, accommodation, activities and souvenirs to positively impact the local economy.
  2. Eat local food, to reduce waste and enhance your cultural experience and understanding.
  3. Donate to a registered charity in-country, instead of street handouts. That way you’ll ensure your money is making the biggest impact to those who need it most.


Find out more about Kathmandu’s Helpful or Harmful report. Here you can read the report in full and watch all three episodes of the documentary.


Check out these ways to lower your impact

How To Be Green In The Backcountry

Aussie Startup Electrifying Off-Road Adventures

How To Make Gear Choices That Change The World

Could You Hike Without Single-Use Plastic?

10 Tips To Tread Softly in Our Wild Places