Responsible tourism is basically the accountability aspect of the customer tourist that is dealt with depth realizing the impact of tourism on the environment and society at large. This form of tourism strives to improve the environmental, social, economic and cultural state of the destination in one hand and gives the tourist his money’s worth of pleasure, exposure and edification on the other.
It all depends upon the pattern of behavior of the tourist and his reactions to the new environment that will largely decide the tone of reciprocals he receives from the destination and its inhabitants. Interaction between the guest and host would be a crucial domain deciding whether things are working towards achievement of the basic features of responsibility tourism.
Responsible tourism, sustainable tourism and ecotourism – What is the difference?
A subtle difference exists between these niche tourisms although the terms often seem to be synonymous because of few overlapping features. Very few are able to make out the distinction and confusion prevails.
If we go by the Oxford Dictionary, ecotourism is defined as a form of “tourism directed towards exotic, often threatened natural environments, intended to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife’. Even though it focuses on the environmental factors of destinations, it also implies to be respectful of the locals dwelling around.
Sustainable tourism has deeper implications. The WTO (World Tourism Organization) advocates optimal and judicious use of natural resources in tourism respecting the socio-cultural fabric of the destination ensuring viable long term tourism operations benefiting the destination as a whole.
Whereas in responsible tourism, both the tourists and hosts bear the responsibility to ensure the above two aspects are maintained. The decisions and actions from both the parties should be aimed towards the betterment of the environment and the local community.
The tourists’ attitude matters in responsible tourism. While visiting a natural reserve, if you put up in an eco-friendly accommodation, follow healthy practices without wasting local resources or causing harm to the environment and creatures, you are following responsible tourism. You strive to create a positive impact and come back enriched from a new cultural exposure. Responsible tourism supports sustainable and eco-tourism.
Minimizing tourism impact
Harmful impacts of tourist visit upon the ecological, environmental, economic, social and cultural sphere of the destination must be minimized. It should be ensured the destination doesn’t lose its originality and ethnicity under the alien pressure of tourism by outsiders not belonging to the soil. Identity of the destination must be retained, and the tourists have an active role in this area.
Boosts economic and developmental activities
The presence and actions of the responsible tourist works a long way in enhancing the economic state of the local residents by generating more jobs to get themselves absorbed fruitfully. Job creation is based upon primary and secondary impact of the tourism industry. Tourists visit destinations and leave satisfied. Words spread fast, and marketing hype is propagated creating a favorable market.
More tourists are lured in. Hotel industry expands and more restaurants are set up and the responsible tourists play a key role here. Their consumption pattern shoots. More hotel rooms are booked within a specified time span and more food and drinks consumed. Money flows in and the trade expands. Tourists pour in numbers and to support the additional demand new locals are recruited. The local residents earn a good amount courtesy the tourist.
The local residents are no longer mere spectators watching foreigners come and enjoy their country. They have now an active participatory role in decision making that runs the cogs of the tourism industry. Their access to the tourism industry becomes more easy and commanding. They form an association and work up their duties, responsibilities, demands and wage structure in coordination with the ministry of tourism. Tourists’ opinion poll is set up, and their views and suggestions for improvement weighed. Working conditions are made better. The tourist and local rapport becomes more defined, and they work together towards overall development of the destination concern encompassing all its elements including environmental, cultural, social and economic units.
Constructive approach – the mainstay of responsible tourism
Both the locals and visiting tourists become aware of cultural wealth, the ethnic heritage and the biodiversity of a destination. They take a positive approach and focus their attention on conservation of the social, cultural and environmental prosperity of a region contributing towards its upliftment and promotion.
This positive correlation between the tourists and the local community is a wonderful step to start with. It makes tours gratifying to the tourists, and they get an insight into the life, culture, thoughts and beliefs that guide the local populace.
Tourists start showing respect to the local way of life and take all the pain to ensure they do not get worn out. By buying local product the tourist help sustain the local economy. The locals reciprocate expressing their gratitude and hospitality. They hone and bring up their traditional dexterity and talent, and the tourists gets to see and buy wonderful workmanship of local artifacts and masterpiece work of art. Responsible tourism calls for responses from the tourist depending upon specific circumstances and nature of the destination visited.
Awareness in responsible practices and behavior crucial to responsible tourism
When adventure tourism is under focus where the tourist explores a wild habitat and the mass of fauna, the first code to be followed is observing silence. Shouts and high pitched vocalization may scare away wild life, and it certainly disrupts tranquility that rules around. Sound pollution has a detrimental effect upon environment and tourists are expected to be responsible enough to keep outbursts of joy under control.
Forest fires are devastating. Both animal and plant life get charred into heaps of carbon while the flame keeps advancing and burning out all that comes in its way. Forest fires are often caused by live cigarette butts thrown carelessly in the bush. Bonfires, campfires and barbeques are possible inputs that lead to fire catastrophes in the bush.
The tourists must show responsible behavior and think twice about the consequences before starting barbecue or setting camp fire while in a mood of celebration. Equally important is to inform the forest official if the tourist locates one. Forest fires cause irreparable damage to the ecosystem and often it is found it is the tourist who is responsible.
Throwing garbage around amid wilderness can turn lethal. Plastics, wrappers, poly packs, empty bottles, leftovers, spilling chemicals and other forms of inorganic garbage are typical pollutants in a forest generated through reckless tourism. Plastic wrappers can choke and kill masticating herbivores. Chemicals can poison them and glass shards can inflict slashing gores to animal life, and these are burning examples of harm inflicting tourism. I
In responsible tourism, the tourist is educated to refrain from actions which go against the fundamental norms of adventure tourism so that he completes his trip with a guilt free conscience having contributed something positive to the environment that he has visited and drawn pleasure from.
Respecting locals and their culture
Appreciating and participating in local cultural programs, folk dances, dramas and music concerts are manifestations of responsible tourism. It encourages the locals injecting a rejuvenating dose of enthusiasm, and they are inspired and encouraged to perform better. The cultural gap is bridged, and both the guest and the host get to know each other better.
Buying local products like handicrafts, embroidery, paintings and artifacts encourages the locals. They get an opportunity to earn, and the impetus makes them showcase better sets of skills creating a brand of authentic local merchandise. The essence of responsible tourism is thus to improve all the elements associated with the destination and draw fun and pleasure.
Responsible tourism trend to stay forever
When tourism industry is under serious threats, responsible tourism can only make it sustainable. Tourists are more aware of their health and hygiene and the surroundings enabling all to reap the benefits of tourism. Destinations as well as tourists need to have the intent to adhere to safety and health protocols. So what we would likely see in the future responsible travel?
- Staycations are on the rise and will continue to grow as many travelers might choose near-to-home locations for a holiday break.
- Domestic and regional tourism will get a lift.
- Travelers are likely to choose remote destinations close to nature, enjoy farm fresh home grown meals and indulge in hiking, biking and other natural activities more.
- Preferring local travel means supporting the local economy, a likely trend to gain preference.
- Exotic and experiential destinations will be in the travelers’ bucket list than world-famous much-talked of destinations and places.
- Countryside responsible retreat tours will play a crucial role in community development.
Responsible tourism does not imply that you have to spend more, enjoy less and face too much discomfort. It also does not imply that you will have to travel to remote or undeveloped areas. Whether you travel solo or in group, it is your attitude that matters most. You just need to be more responsible in your activities. Littering here and there or mindless consumption of food, water and energy goes against the principle of responsible tourism. Irresponsible behaviors will not allow you to enjoy the essence of travel to the fullest.
As global boundaries shrink and people travel more than ever, responsible tourism will gain more importance. With environmental awareness spreading fast to mitigate global crises, the travel world is geared up to witness a new generation of responsible tourists.