As we all know the world is expanding at an amazing fast rate, and due to globalization and technology, people are travelling more than they have ever done in the past. Being aware of this fast rate of development, businesses all over the globe are tapping into this opportunity and they are building tourism related solutions everywhere, i.e. building hotels and resorts in major touristic destinations to accommodate the travelers. But are they operating responsibly, are they even aware of the concept of Responsible Tourism?
Some time ago, about thirty or so years, the new concept of green tourism was thought off. This concept was majorly concerned with the wildlife of the touristic locations. It was called ecotourism and their to go motto was “Take only photographs, leave only footprints”. While all of this was great, and it still is, there were a few small glitches with it; it was focusing on the flora and fauna, but failed to consider the residents, the people living in these places, being equally affected by the tourists. The locals should also be taken in consideration, and along the flowers and the animals they too should benefit from the tourism industry.
What makes responsible tourism different than sustainable tourism?
George, R. (2007),” Managing Tourism in South Africa” mentions in his research that although responsible and sustainable tourism are different concepts, they do share similarities and both have the goal of reaching sustainable development. Both share three core concepts, the society, the economy and the environment. The difference lays in responsible tourism also including tourism entities, hotels and the responsibility of their actions. It covers the process and the effect of developing a better product for the tourists and the impact of this development on the local community.
One thing led to another, and this is how Responsible Tourism came to be. It was initial defined in Cape Town 2002 along the World Summit on Sustainable Development, being widely used ever since, and recently, in 2007, has been adopted by the World Travel Market in 2007 for World Responsible Tourism Day.
What is the definition of Responsible tourism?
“Responsible tourism complies with the principles of social and economic justice and exerts full respect towards the environment and its cultures. It recognizes the centrality of the local host community and its right to act as a protagonist in developing a sustainable and responsible tourism. Responsible tourism actuates to foster a positive interaction between the tourist industry, the local communities and the travelers”, defined by AITR’s members in 2005.
Basically, while a country or a region engages in touristic activities, they should make sure they develop in such a way that they do not harm the local environment, the local culture or ignore the local voices. Responsible tourism should create better places to live for the locals and better places to visit for the tourists, doing so in total harmony.
- Environment: minimize the environmental impact caused by tourists. This is where ecotourism plays its part
- Social: the local population should have a central role in the development of tourism. They should be involved and their earnings should be fair, as they are sharing their “home land” with visitors. They should also be part of the decision-making process through a participatory contribution
- Culture: respecting the local culture and its true essence. While developing tourism in a specific area it should be done in such a way that it creates awareness regarding the local culture, traditions and lifestyle. Aspects related to gastronomy, handcrafts and local festivities should be made known to the tourists and locals allowed to show off their traits in an undisruptive way
- Economy: a general equal distribution of the economic benefits for both the local community and its hosting territory
Why is Responsible Tourism so important?
To support this movement, there is a declaration, and we can look at it as a guideline.
Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism
“The Cape Town Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations was organized by the Responsible Tourism Partnership and Western Cape Tourism as a side event preceding the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, and attended by 280 delegates from 20 countries. It grew out of the South African work on responsible tourism guidelines and involved delegates field-testing the South African Guidelines on sites in and around the city.”
This declaration is explaining to us that responsible tourism is not a product, but rather an approach. Responsible tourism takes a variety of forms, being characterized by the following points:
- Minimizes negative environmental, social and cultural impacts;
- Generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the wellbeing of host communities, by improving working conditions and access to the industry;
- Involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances;
- Makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage and to the maintenance of the world’s diversity;
- Provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural and environmental issues;
- Provides access for physically challenged people;
- Is culturally sensitive and engenders respect between tourists and hosts.
This is the overall picture of what responsible tourism is, now I will give you some tips of how you can be a responsible tourist as well as being a responsible business.
The Responsible Tourist:
- It’s your holiday, but their home – give a little thought that when you travel you are entering someone’s home and everyday life
- Read up – do a little research regarding the destination you are travelling too, their culture, their customs, what is or is not accepted while socializing, maybe some short phrases.
- It’s not an exam – no one will test you on your information, this is truly just for the enhancement of your travelling
- Preserve the heritage – when visiting historical places or otherwise, be mindful, don’t litter, keep in mind that others will want to see the beautiful places too
- Go green – pick the type of hotels who adopted a sustainable approach, follow their rules
- Go local – support the local community, try to buy your souvenirs from them, eat in their restaurants and so on
- Good manners are universal – A responsible tourist is polite, positive and eco-sensitive
The Responsible Business:
There should be no lack of understanding of what responsible tourism is. The appropriate government bodies and the businesses must have a good communication relationship. Some recommendations for the hotels would be:
- Intensive education on the topic of responsible tourism for the hotel, not only the management but all the employees
- The hotels should support the local community by directing their guests to them
- When showing the local culture, exaggeration just for the sake of entertainment should not be accepted
- Consult the local bodies in weather or not they are somehow disturbing them
- Include the opinion of the locals in how to better offer the destination to the tourists, know their specialties
- Check for local and unique opportunities
Tourism and travelling are one of the best opportunities that our times can offer, let’s be mindful and protect both the environment and the people, because this is what makes a location truly unique!