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.
What is Responsible Travel?
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:
- 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.
Which is all a rather long winded way of encouraging all of us to travel with common sense and cultural awareness.
Is anything that isn’t Responsible Travel by definition irresponsible travel?
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.
Responsible Travel - A responsibility to travellers as well as locals
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.
Can travel ever be green?
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.
Does travelling responsibly mean compromises?
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.
Where can I find out more?
- Planeta.com Global journal of practical ecotourism
- Centre for Responsible Travel
- Sustainable Travel International
- Terracurve: The guide to responsible travel
- Whistle blowing site, Irresponsible Travel
- A fascinating discussion about the merits or otherwise of responsible travel on the Guardian
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.
Know Before You Go
‘Know Before You Go’ (KBYG) is an ongoing campaign with around 400 travel industry partners to help Brits to stay safe and healthy abroad. The campaign was launched in 2001 to promote these key messages:
- Get adequate travel insurance
- Check the FCO’s country travel advice
- Research your destination – know the local laws and customs
- Visit your GP as soon as possible before travelling
- Check your passport is in good condition and valid and you have all necessary visas
- Make copies of important travel documents and/or store them online using a secure data storage site
- Tell someone where you are going and leave emergency contact details with them
- Take enough money and have access to emergency funds