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Responsible Tourism by Harold Goodwin
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Why Responsibility?

It is only the actions of tourism businesses in originating markets and destinations, travellers and holidaymakers and destination management organisations, including local governments that can make tourism more sustainable. Mere relabelling, policymaking and marketing will not make tourism better or more sustainable. Sustainable is challenging to define, and it very often used as little more than a "feel good" word. Responsible is a heavier word, carrying with it a strong assumption that those claiming it are carrying the burden.

Responsible Tourism is a broad movement encompassing destinations, large mainstream businesses, niche operations, travellers and holidaymakers. New labels are generated to differentiate products and ways of travelling – regenerative, climate-friendly, conscious, ethical and of course, ecotourism. All these labels have in common the claim that they are better forms of tourism whether or not they are turns on who has taken the responsibility to make them better, what they have done and with what impact.

Sizoo[1] has analysed responsibility in many cultures and concludes that it resounds everywhere, although its three primary elements have different weights in different traditions of thought. The three elements[2] are

  • the capacity, willingness or obligation to respond;
  • obligation, accountability, liability and blame;
  • empowerment, respons-ability, the opportunity to take responsibility, the opportunity to demonstrate our good character, to feel good about ourselves.

Responsibility may be imposed by law or moral tradition, but it may also be willingly assumed. When seeing an issue, we take responsibility and do what we can about it. Responsibility is a burden that can be imposed or voluntarily taken. In either case, the outcome can be defined, measured, reported and credited to a particular organisation or individual. Failure, too, can be identified and blame apportioned.

All forms of tourism can be more or less responsible. Responsible Tourism is not a product or range of products. Ecotourism and business travel may be more or less responsible. Since 2004 in the World Responsible Tourism Awards we have recognised hundreds of businesses, organisation and destinations from all corners of the world for their responsible practices and for many years now we have explained the judges' decisions. We are not saying that these businesses are perfect or the best in the world.  We recognise them for taking responsibility, for making aspects of tourism better and for their impacts.

[1] Sizoo, E. ed., (2010) Responsibility and cultures of the world: Dialogue around a collective challenge Peter Lang.

[2] Goodwin H (2016) Responsible Tourism Goodfellow, Oxford: 24-25

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