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Responsible Travel encourages travellers to think twice about the impact of their holidays. It’s a concept that is second nature to many independent travellers – a respect for the local culture, environment and people wherever we visit.
Unfortunately, whilst the concepts of responsible travel seem common sense, it is actually an extraordinarily difficult beast to pigeon-hole. Ask someone what the difference between ecotourism, local travel and responsible travel is, and they probably won’t have a clue.
Officially, Responsible Travel is defined in the 2002 Capetown Declaration as travel that:
Which is all a rather long winded way of encouraging all of us to travel with common sense and cultural awareness.
Put simply, no.
The effects of tourism and travel are subtle, complex and dynamic. They simply can’t be viewed in isolation of socio-political, economic and ecological change. Whilst many would assume grassroots travel such as backpacking would be better than hyper-organised package tourism, it isn’t always the case.
Which is why the topic defies succesful labelling. All we can do is educate and encourage people to ask questions, to think and act consciously when they travel.
Discussions about responsible travel tend to centre on the impact travellers have, but local businesses and people alike also have a responsibility to travellers. It is absolutely right that locals should treat travellers with respect, not to take advantage of their cultural ignorance, not to rip them off and not to be rude. It is also important they apply suitable safety standards and protect customer’s money when they receive it for advance bookings.
Environmental impact is another important aspect of responsible travel. Many travel and transport operators are developing thoroughly green approaches (which we applaud). However, there are also many fantastic local initiatives that simply don’t have the resources or know-how to go green. It is wrong to punish them on this green basis.
Travel is, of course also inherantly linked with flying. To suggest to anyone that they need to give up flying is unrealistic. There is though, an opportunity for us all to travel slower, to swap an internal flight for an overland journey rail journey, to spend more time in one place and less time trying zipping about the country on jam-packed itinerary. It might take longer, but it can offer a wonderful insight into local life.
Like with responsible travel, green travel is also not simple and claims are not always to be believed. Ultimately, each traveller must make their own decisions.
No approach which requires people to compromise their enjoyment of holidays is ever going to take off. This isn’t the equivalent to swapping one brand of detergent for another eco friendly version. With holidays. the focus is rightly on the quality of the experience. Luckily much that defines responsible travel is also better travel. It ultimately means more authentic experiences, less large groups, less international hotels and more charm and character.
What is the Tourdust’s approach?
Intrinsically, the Tourdust approach of discovering and supporting genuine local travel businesses covers much of what responsible travel is about. By booking tours and accommodation directly with local guides and hosts you can be confident that more of your spend goes towards helping the local economy.
However, we fall shy of labelling what we do. We know enough to know we don’t have all the answers. Instead, we want to encourage thoughtfullness, debate, challenging barriers and supporting local cause.