x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Ask the Expert: Websites for the environmentally conscious traveller

Some of the best websites for planning holidays that don't harm the environment and help support local communities.

Could you list a few environmentally aware organisations to turn to when planning a vacation? We're looking for websites offering eco-friendly trips, advice and travel tips for a holiday that is an environmentally conscious, but authentic experience.

If you're planning a green holiday, start with the International Ecotourism Society (www.ecotourism.org). The not-for-profit organisation, which aims to "educate tourists", aims to unite communities all over the globe with conservation and sustainable travel in mind. The easy-to-navigate website offers tips on sustainable travel as well as an "ecotourism explorer" map, an interactive experience that allows you to look up everything from green accommodation to NGOs to tour operators and traveller experiences. One of their featured themes is "culinary travel", offering tour itineraries that support local restaurants, traders and businesses in various destinations, from Chile to Alaska to India.

The International Ecotourism Club (www.ecoclub.net) promotes itself as a "mutual aid network for ecological and socially just tourism and living", and features blogs, news, travel reviews and tips. Their alphabetised "eco directory" includes categories such as accommodation, attractions and even landscape designers. You can also shop at their online store for organic products, including coffee and tea.

Before you book a beach holiday, visit Blue Flag (www.blueflag.org). Every season, in partnership with the UN Environment Programme and the World Trade Organisation, among others, it awards a blue flag to beaches and marinas all around the world on the basis of a range of criteria, including the quality of bathing water, waste management, sewage treatment, coastal planning and protection of marine life. Currently, there are 41 countries and more than 3,450 beaches on the Blue Flag list.

Green Concierge Travel (www.greenconciergetravel.com) is a comprehensive website that organises leisure trips with the environment in mind, with tailor-made itineraries, including air and rail ticketing. It also offers every concierge service imaginable, from finding restaurants and hotels to directions to local parks and bike rental.

The website www.responsibletravel.com prides itself on being a travel company that works towards benefitting local people and the environment, bringing tourists closer to communities with carefully planned trips and tours, all in partnership with environmentally conscious holiday providers. The company offers all types of holidays - adventure, safari, history and culture and wildlife - that go "far beyond the brochure". Small tour groups are encouraged, itineraries are carefully planned to minimise their carbon footprint, every tour company and hotel is screened to meet the required criteria before a trip is offered and traveller feedback is sent back to tour operators after every trip.

For an eco-holiday that's off the beaten track, try Intrepid Travel (www.intrepidtravel.com). Dedicated to supporting local intiatives, the agency steers clear of multinational supply chains and promotes water conservation, recycling and aims to economically empower communities through responsible tourism.

Do you have travel questions or queries? E-mail them to us at travel@thenational.ae