The travel industry is slowly changing with experiential travel on the uprise. In a credit-crunch world people want fulfilling experiences in return for their hard earned cash, craving colourful memories connected to the culture of their destination. This is good news for responsible tourism with its aim to ‘create better places to live and better places to visit’. Consumers of this sort of travel are also more likely to want to eat and buy native products, giving a boost to the local economy.
In Taking Responsibility for Tourism, author Harold Goodwin, Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University, charts the emergence of responsible tourism as a concept and explores what it looks like from the perspective of the various participants, from local communities, through governments and tour operators to visitors. Promoting positive experiences rather than easing guilt, Harold goes to the heart of the matter – the verb ‘responsible’. The implication here is that for tourism to be responsible, there has to be conscious and personal action by everyone involved.
Rather than constructing yet another niche, responsible tourism is intended as an ethic applied to tourism overall. The aim is to nurture resilience and avoid dependency in host communities underpinned by the idea that destinations belong to the people who live their and their descendants. Needless to say, locals living in harmony with tourism are also much more likely to engage with visitors in a meaningful way.
What may come as a surprise is Harold’s strong stance on ‘opaque’ third party certification schemes, such as the Green Globe standard. Arguing that many of these consist of picking from a list whichever criteria are the easiest to satisfy, standards should rather reflect what will make a real difference locally. If done appropriately, however, intiatives can work well.
A central message in the book is that no size fits all. Solutions will vary enormously from destination to destination, depending on local circumstances. Knowing the right questions to ask when researching or booking your holiday is however invaluable. The main thing to keep in mind is who benefits and how.
Harold concludes by defining responsible tourism as a social movement and inviting readers to share their thoughts and ideas by engaging in the debate on the book’s website, takingresponsibilityfortourism.info
Taking Responsibility for Tourism by Harold Goodwin (Goodfellow Publishers Ltd) £29.99