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Sustainable Tourism

April 9, 2020
Harold Goodwin
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Sustainable tourism is not the same as Responsible Tourism

Sustainability is the ambition; Responsible Tourism is about what we do as producers and consumers to realise the aspiration. Too often sustainable is used only in the abstract sense. Responsible Tourism is not the same as sustainable tourism. Responsibility requires that we say what we are doing to make tourism better and that we are transparent about what we achieve.

Sustainability is the abstract aim, so vague that it cannot be called an objective. It is very often little more than greeenwashing.  Responsible Tourism is what results when we take responsibility as producers or consumers - it is about what we do and what we achieve.

Responsible Tourism places the emphasis on what individuals and groups do to address those sustainability issues which arise in particular places, addressing local priorities, transparently reporting what is being done to address the local priorities. When individuals, businesses or governments assert that they are engaging in Responsible Tourism, ask them for the specifics. Ask:

  1. What are they taking responsibility for?
  2. How are they taking responsibility, what are they doing and how
    much are they doing?
  3. What have they achieved?

The outcomes and impacts are the evidence we need to look for to judge whether responsibility is being effectively taken. Responsible Tourism recognises that tourism is what we, visitors and visited, make it. We are individually and collectively responsible for how tourism functions in a place, for its positive and negative impacts. If we take responsibility, we can change it.

For a more detailed discussion of why Responsible Tourism is not the same as sustainable tourism download a 15 page section from Goodwin H (2016) Responsible Tourism Goodfellow.

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