06 August 2012

Responsible Travel...10 years on from the Cape Town Declaration

Written by Published in Eco Travel

Ten years ago in Cape Town, a group of major players in the tourism industry gathered to discuss the future of a type of tourism that would do no harm, indeed even aim to improve conditions for the ecology and people of the destinations visited. They called this 'Responsible Travel' and the result was the Cape Town Declaration

This manifesto was not just geared to become another name for eco-tourism, but a tool to inspire real change, creating ‘better places for people to live in, and better places to visit’.

Ten years later the same people gathered in London at South Africa House in order to take stock. Despite dealing with a very different financial landscape to the previous optimistic and buoyant 2002 outlook, which has inevitably slowed down the process of improvement, progress has been made.

Whereas most consumers are not willing to pay a huge premium ‘just to be green’, the trend is leaning towards a demand for ‘out of the ordinary’ holidays. Happily, this is exactly what Responsible Travel can offer: unique access to local culture through much closer encounters with the reality of people and nature at the destination. Combined with an opportunity to get under the skin of the local culture and having a truly authentic experience, consumers seem much more inclined to go for this option.

South Africa
is the unofficial “guardian” of the Responsible Travel concept and they have achieved much in this area over the last ten years. Recognising that tourism is a key growth sector, tourism was granted its own Ministry in 2009.

Speaking to Sublime in London, SA Deputy Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa, said: “The South African Government has taken leadership in tourism, which is what most countries involved in the Cape Town Declaration are yearning for." She explained how the preparations for the 2010 World Cup helped propel the country towards better standards: “We saw how visitors felt part of the African concept of Ubuntu during the World Cup–Ubuntu meaning ‘humanity and warmth of community’.” In this way she said, “Responsible travel brings in the people as part of the destination”.

It was clear from the conference at South Africa House that the industry still has a way to go but there are many organisations working hard on the promotion of Responsible Travel. One of these is the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT), a community of practitioners from business, NGOs, government, conservation and heritage areas. Based in Leeds, the UK ICRT also runs a Masters and PhD programme in Responsible Travel and it has a number of Sister organisations around the world including the Travel Foundation and responsibletravel.com who both aim to help consumers make the right holiday choices.

Apart from South Africa, other destinations taking significant action in the area of responsible travel include the Indian state of Kerala, Cyprus, Gambia and Brazil.

For further information, you can contact any of the organisations listed above.


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