Defining Responsible Tourism
Responsible tourism in its purest form is travel that positively benefits travelers, host communities and their culture and environments. Local people are not exploited and natural and/or cultural resources are not threatened. Travelers benefit by learning from others and seeing a different way of life through their eyes. Host communities and local people gain greater economic benefits and a better quality of life. And local cultures and the environment are preserved in their natural state.
WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY AND HOW?
These are the questions we must consider as conscientious travelers. Understanding the ways in which we can minimize negative environmental, economic and socio-cultural impacts and enhance positive ones is the key to getting the most out of our vacations and giving back to the places and people we visit.
RESEARCH YOUR ALTERNATIVES
As a responsible traveler, one of the most significant steps we can take is to research and carefully evaluate our alternatives. For one, ensure that any travel providers you’re considering are taking steps to limit their environmental and cultural impacts.
In particular, determine their responsible travel or environmental policy. Oftentimes, this information will be detailed in their marketing materials. If not, consider posing some of the questions detailed in Planning and Preparation in your correspondence with them.
Also, determine if they are certified. Just as travelers depend on AAA Diamond Ratings to ensure a certain level of quality in accommodations, we can depend on credible Eco-certification programs to address the environmental, economic and cultural impacts of a travel provider’s operations. Though not being certified doesn’t mean the travel provider is irresponsible, an adequate certification program will generally address these issues.
IN SUMMARY WE THINK RESPONSIBLE TRAVELERS SHOULD:
- Maximize positive environmental, social and cultural impacts and minimize negative impacts as part of their travel experience.
- Economically benefit local people, their communities and environments and support the preservation of cultural heritage and provide for the conservation of natural resources.
- Support local control over tourism development that is sustainable and not harmful to the environment or well being of local people.
- Support travel providers who involve local people and their communities in decisions that affect quality of life.
- Seek out travel experiences that provide opportunities to make meaningful connections with local people and foster a greater understanding of their cultural and environmental issues.
- Be culturally sensitive and build environmental and cultural awareness through education and outreach.