Palawan ethical travel is still something new. The region is now slowly becoming more of a playground of young travelers, party backpackers and the like in South East Asia. Unfortunately, the locals and their companies are not yet socially aware of the destructive effects of mass tourism. Massive cheapness and spontaneity are unsustainable in the grand scheme of things.
On a brighter note, it is never too late to guide travelers to become more aware of the impact their travel choices can have on the environment and local communities in Palawan. What you need is a comprehensive and socially responsible Palawan tour operator that will guide you towards ecotourism or Palawan ethical travel. Be forewarned though, there are tourism companies out there that are also exploiting the ethical travel niche through the so-called ‘greenwashing.’
Here are the top five ways to become a mindful traveler in Palawan
Support 100% locally-owned small businesses in Palawan
Just as Palawan is gradually becoming the playground of cheap travelers, it is also becoming a typical third-world exploitation haven. The rise of foreign-owned or oligarch-owned tourism companies is killing the local industry, increasing the price of goods and driving the residents out. Just as you might frequent family-owned businesses in your country, you can also do the same while you travel in Palawan. Book your Palawan tour package with a 100% Filipino business.
It is important to watch where the money goes. Go to locally-owned restaurants and small hotels. When travelers help keep the money in the community, the locals become empowered. If you’re more concerned about boosting the economy of Palawan, do a quick search to find out about locally-owned businesses.
Avoid the ‘Cattle Boat’ Tours
You know the saying that people tend to become stupid in big groups? It is true on so many levels! Choosing small groups for your Palawan island-hopping tours means that the people are more aware of the environmental effect of their choices. A small group means less impact. The big boats use more fuel, and it is the worst kind of mass tourism there is – consumption taken to its extreme.
Although a lot of local companies depend on cattle boat tours for livelihood, it is never too late to educate the masses and spread environmental awareness. Setting an example towards Palawan ethical travel is the key. Remember that ‘less is more.’ Choosing a few but quality travelers is way more profitable in the long run, and at the same time, more socially responsible.
Participate in El Nido’s plastic battle campaign
Participating in El Nido’s plastic battle campaign is part of Palawan ethical travel. The small town of El Nido, home to Palawan’s iconic spots, is doing its part in eradicating single-use plastic bottles and straws from all its restaurants, bars, hotels, and shops.
It goes without saying that once you travel to El Nido, you become part of this environmental campaign. It means that you are setting a good example by not bringing plastic bottles and other plastic packages in town. However, it is too hypocritical to say that you’ll no longer see plastics anywhere you go. Small local shops in the villages or the ‘sari-sari stores’ still sell goods in small packaging that can be mostly afforded by the poor. People throwing plastics into the sea is actually just 1/10th percent of the problem, as it is way easier to blame the local consumers as always. What about those plastic bottles from other countries that are washed up on the beach? The bigger contributors to the plastic rubbish in the ocean are actually those big companies that manufacture goods in plastic packaging, the fast food chains, and the China plastic industry. If the government can’t bring them down, at least, try not to fully support those unethical companies as you travel. However, this approach will be more effective if done collectively.
Plan your Palawan ethical travel ahead of time
There’s really nothing wrong with being a spontaneous traveler especially while you are still young, however, if it’s happening on a massive scale, it’s just not sustainable anymore. As a mindful traveler, you should plan your Palawan trip ahead of time. It means that you take your time in choosing ethical tour operators and researching about Palawan ethical travel.
Responsible travel is all about being more sensitive to your impact while visiting Palawan. One of the key ways of leaving only a positive mark when you travel to Palawan is to only book with a comprehensive tour operator that advocates ecotourism. Never choose a tour operator whose prices seem too good to be true. Proper travel requires a proper price.
The old adage “you get what you pay for” is more applicable when visiting developing countries. A Palawan tour company that slightly charges more for their services are more likely to be committed to paying their local guides proper wages and to act in an environmentally responsible manner.
Immerse yourself in the local culture
All-inclusive resorts in Palawan prevent authentic experiences. By choosing them, you’ll only make the rich richer. Choose a local Palawan tour operator that offers culturally-immersive experiences or where you get to experience the local way of life. Be curious of how locals commute or where do they eat?
Food is part of the culture, so instead of being too fragile during your Palawan travel, find out where the locals have their meals. Being a regular human being, the food might be good for you as well. Food connects people and you’ll likely meet someone who will help you out. This is a responsible choice as you are supporting the local economy of Palawan while taking a good cultural knowledge with you.
Please keep in mind that a Palawan tour operator who only works with smaller groups tend to be “the environmentally responsible one”. They care about the places they visit and helps you connect with the local culture. They are committed towards local communities and supports a good cause.
Karen is the local expert and itinerary specialist of Palawan AlterNATIVE. When she’s not traveling, she likes to immerse herself in a good book or blog about her life. Parts geek, parts scuba diver. Her other obsessions include things-to-do lists, cycling, solitude, and cryptocurrency. She currently lives with her cat in El Nido.