While marketing campaigns have long touted ‘destinations’ — travelers are simply entering a place that is someone else’s home.
If those working in the tourist trade embrace the values we wish developed, then we can make a huge leap forward. The trick lies in listening to locals and visitors to create the opportunites that connect top-down and grassroots efforts. Travel agents, travel providers and travelers are the principal players.
Here’s my thought: responsible tourism is treating others the way they wish to be treated. This is a variation on the Platinum Rule … it’s also common sense and good manners.
A growing number of travelers want their journeys to be less invasive and more beneficial to the local community. They want to better understand the culture of the people they meet in the places they visit. Visitors should be mindful that we are entering a place that is someone else’s home. Sounds complicated? Try this — imagine what irresponsible tourism looks like and then imagine its opposite.
Or put another way – courtesy of the 2002 Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism — responsible tourism creates better places for people to live and better places to visit.
We ask a lot of tourism these days … that it be eco, that it be sustainable and that it be responsible. These signs are encouraging. Global tourism is experiencing a massive transformation in the 21st century. Travelers and locals are seeking ways of building constituencies with the shared goal of making tourism more responsible.
Toward that end we propose connecting the natural and virtual worlds. Live Local. Think Global. Respond personally.
Says noted author and activist Deborah McLaren: “Responsible tourism is based on ethics and human rights. It also means support for community-based travelers’ programs, including homestays, guest cottages, ethno-museums, and educational programs that bring tourist dollars directly into communities.”
Responsible travel means extending solidarity over time. Efforts that exhibit continuity make poor situations better and good situations great. How to stay in touch? As Rob Brezsny writes in Pronoia, “Choose worthy targets and ransack your imagination to come up with smart, true and amusing praise about them.”
The work ahead lies in connecting top-down and grassroots efforts. Responsible travel means extending solidarity over time. Efforts that lack continuity, even if developed with good intentions, can make situations worse.
What is the opposite of responsible tourism? How about irresponsible tourism?! There is even a Facebook group that discusses the troubling aspects in travel such as wildlife exploitation and irresponsible tour operators.
Responsible tourism as defined in the 2002 Cape Town Declaration:
• minimizes negative economic, environmental, and social impacts;
• generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves 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, 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, social and environmental issues;
• provides access for physically challenged people; and
• is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
The declaration concludes with a commitment ‘to work with others to take responsibility for achieving the economic, social and environmental components of responsible and sustainable tourism.’