What is Responsible Tourism?

Responsible tourism, is the new buzz word in the tourism industry that is gaining importance with travellers, tour companies and governments alike. You may call it sustainable or ethical tourism, eco-tourism or simply just nature tourism.

Call it what you like, on one hand it’s about showing respect for the environment and the people where you are travelling. But for the traveller, it’s about getting closer to cultures, communities and environments and getting more from your experience.

Tourism plays an essential role in local economic and social development. It raises awareness of the importance of respect for the world’s cultures and environments.

Mass tourism, however, can lead to environmental damage, dilution of indigenous languages and culture, an increase in illnesses, and even a decline in socio-economic wellbeing.

International travel and tourism is growing at a rapid rate. The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that by 2020, international arrivals are expected to exceed 1.5 billion people. To put that in perspective, in 1950 that number was just 25 million.

Being a responsible traveller and making conscious choices and decisions when travelling can help minimise impacts the fast growing tourism industry has on the world’s destinations.

There are now many organisation devoted to helping travellers minimise their impacts on the communities and environments they visit. For example, Sustainable Travel International works to promote responsible travel and sustainable development with travellers and tourism professionals.

The National Geographic Society’s Centre for Sustainable Destinations is a Mecca for resources on sustainable and responsible tourism. The Connected Traveller is also a good resource for travellers.

Internationally, UNESCO’s World Heritage List currently includes over 900 cultural and natural landmarks. Properties included on the World Heritage List belong to everyone, everywhere irrespective of where they are located. This also means that we all must aware of our individual responsibilities to protect and preserve the heritage of the sites we visit.

The choice of guidelines and codes for travellers is overwhelming, but the basic principles are alike. So here are some basic tips for being a responsible traveller.

1) Do your research: What makes a destination unique? Are there any social or environmental vulnerabilities that you should be aware of before you visit? Read up on the local culture, customs and environment to make sure you minimise any disturbing impacts. Does the tour guide company or hotel have a sustainable tourism policy or code?

2) Learn the language: Take classes at your destination if you have time, or simply take the time to learn key phrases from your guide book. It shows respect for local cultures.

3) Reduce your carbon: If you’re flying internationally, be sure to purchase carbon offsets. These can usually be purchased from your airline. At your destination take local public transport, or hire a bicycle or other non-powered transport if possible.

4) Support the local community where you can: Purchase local products. Eat local produce. Don’t over-bargain at markets, pay a fair price. Volunteering is a great way to give back to communities if you have the time. If you don’t have the time, you can donate to a local project.

5) Respect nature: Use resources sparingly. Don’t waste water. Don’t litter, even if the locals do it. Minimise waste. Admire natural artefacts, but don’t remove them. Don’t purchase local or endangered flora and fauna.

6) Respect cultural differences: Always respect local customs and traditions. Many countries have dress standards, dress appropriately.

7) Subscribe to The Responsible Traveller for feature articles and tips on responsible travel, sustainable destinations and nature tourism.

4 Responses to “What is Responsible Tourism?”
  1. Neneng V. Dy says:

    Thanks for the info on Responsible Travel or Tourism…

  2. feelings says:

    Hello! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you have here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon.

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  • Natasha Malinda from Melbourne, Australia
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