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Responsible Tourism Partnership
Responsible Tourism by Harold Goodwin
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Action for RT

  1. Begin by endorsing the principles of Responsible Tourism most recently articulated in the 2022 Responsible Tourism Charter.
    • Responsibility drives sustainability. Responsible Tourism is about "making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit."
    • Responsible Tourism aspires to use tourism rather than to be used by it.
    • Other issues that can be addressed through tourism are not in the Charter - for example, child protection or ensuring that the interpretation and stories told about indigenous communities are respectful.  It cannot be about us; without us
  2. Tourism is a social activity co-created by tourism businesses, local people and their governments with travellers, tourists and day visitors. However, the primary responsibility lies with tourism businesses and governments at all levels because
    • the experiences and services provided and the way the destination is marketed largely determines the kinds of visitors attracted
    • the tourism market is changing - for evidence on market trends go to The Market for RT
    • businesses and governments, particularly local governments, are the choice editors - travellers, tourists and day visitors can only purchase experiences, goods and services available in the destination. The Sustainable Development Commission defined "choice editing" as "...shifting the field of choice for mainstream consumers: cutting out unnecessarily damaging products and getting real sustainable choices on the shelves." For example, if water in plastic bottles is not available for purchase, other ways of providing safe drinking water will thrive. This choice editing strategy at the destination level is only possible if government regulation ensures that no one is selling water in plastic bottles.
  3. Few businesses or destinations can address all the issues on the Responsible Tourism agenda.
    • Greenhouse gas emissions, plastic waste, and biodiversity extinction are global issues requiring local action.
    • Talk with local people and identify the local issues.
    • Identify those you can address through tourism, alone or in cooperation with others.
    • Present your plans and priorities, under the triple bottom-line categories: Economic, Environment and Social.
    • Explain to local people, customers, suppliers and other businesses why you have chosen to take responsibility and how
    • Set goals, measures and report the impact of your efforts – be sure to get the credit!
  4. Consider working with others - local people, customers, suppliers and other businesses - to "make tourism better" at the destination level.

The 2023 Kerala  Responsible Tourism Declaration provides an excellent example of how to frame a policy for a particular business or place.

In 2002 the Cape Town Declaration asserted these guiding principles:

Guiding Principles for Economic Responsibility

  • Assess economic impacts before developing tourism and exercise preference for those forms of development that benefit local communities and minimise negative impacts on local livelihoods (for example through loss of access to resources), recognising that tourism may not always be the most appropriate form of local economic development.
  • Maximise local economic benefits by increasing linkages and reducing leakages, by ensuring that communities are involved in, and benefit from, tourism. Wherever possible use tourism to assist in poverty reduction by adopting pro-poor strategies.
  • Develop quality products that reflect, complement, and enhance the destination.
  • Market tourism in ways which reflect the natural, cultural and social integrity of the destination, and which encourage appropriate forms of tourism.
  • Adopt equitable business practises, pay and charge fair prices, and build partnerships in ways in which risk is minimised and shared, and recruit and employ staff recognising international labour standards.
  • Provide appropriate and sufficient support to small, medium and micro enterprises to ensure tourism-related enterprises thrive and are sustainable.

Guiding Principles for Social Responsibility

  • Actively involve the local community in planning and decision-making and provide capacity building to make this a reality.
  • Assess social impacts throughout the life cycle of the operation – including the planning and design phases of projects - in order to minimise negative impacts and maximise positive ones.
  • Endeavour to make tourism an inclusive social experience and to ensure that there is access for all, in particular vulnerable and disadvantaged communities and individuals.
  • Combat the sexual exploitation of human beings, particularly the exploitation of children.
  • Be sensitive to the host culture, maintaining and encouraging social and cultural diversity.
  • Endeavour to ensure that tourism contributes to improvements in health and education.

Guiding Principles for Environmental Responsibility

  • Assess environmental impacts throughout the life cycle of tourist establishments and operations – including the planning and design phase - and ensure that negative impacts are reduced to the minimum and maximising positive ones.
  • Use resources sustainably, and reduce waste and over-consumption.
  • Manage natural diversity sustainably, and where appropriate restore it; and consider the volume and type of tourism that the environment can support, and respect the integrity of vulnerable ecosystems and protected areas
  • Promote education and awareness for sustainable development – for all stakeholders.
  • Raise the capacity of all stakeholders and ensure that best practice is followed, for this purpose consult with environmental and conservation experts.

The March 2002 South African Guidelines on Responsible Tourism in Destination are available here.

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