Responsible Tourism & Local Development

What is Responsible Tourism?

Discovery quote by Marcel Proust

When you plan your holiday, depending on your budget and interests, there are a multitude of offers to choose from and many different ways how to spend the best time of the year. If you, like myself, enjoy planning and booking your own trip, trying to find places and sights that are not part of the mass tourism route and want to experience your host country in a deeper way, “travelling responsibly” is a great way to achieve those things.

But you don’t need to go through the effort of organizing your trip yourself – there are many travel agencies out there who have specialized in eco tourism, responsible or sustainable travel, to provide special experiences for the travellers but also providing a sustainable and ecofriendly income structure and development for the local communties.

Now – what does Responsible Tourism actually mean?

The International Center for Responsible Tourism puts it like this:

“Responsible Tourism is – making better places for people to live in, and better places to visit.”

In 2002 a conference on Responsible Tourism was held in Cape Town and the following points were set as guidelines to define the understanding of Responsible Tourism (RT).

  • RT minimises negative economic, environmental, and social impacts;
  • It generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry;
  • RT involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances;
  • And it makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world’s diversity;
  • RT provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues;
  • It provides access for physically challenged people; and
  • is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence

Tourism is a huge business worldwide – often the industrial character of tourism leaves negative and ugly impacts on the lives of people especially in developing or poor countries. But tourism can also bring benefits and development to the locals on one hand, and cultural understanding and personal enrichment for travellers on the other.

Travelling responsibly can be an important means to reducing poverty and preserving natural environments. While Ecotourism is focusing on the low-impact on nature and culture, thus fostering a higher appreciation and understanding of the travellers, the term Pro-Poor Tourism can be defined as:

“…an overall approach to tourism development and management aiming at unlocking opportunities for the poor to obtain benefits from tourism.” (African Pro-Poor Tourism Developmnet Center)

Pro-Poor Tourism – Enable local benefits for the poor

Travelling to places off the mass tourism paths provides opportunities for local communities to improve their economical development by sharing their cultural and local products and richnesses. A real exchange between travellers and locals can take place by creating the opportunity to offer products and services and thus increasing the livelyhood of the communities. The advantage for the local people brought through tourism can be such as listed by the Responsible Tourism Partnership’s website

  1. employment in tourism businesses or businesses which supply the industry;
  2. sales of goods and services to tourism businesses;
  3. direct sales of goods and services to tourists;
  4. contributions from tourists to the maintenance of their natural and cultural heritage;
  5. traveller and business philanthropy (e.g donations);
  6. infrastructure gain when tourism bring electricity, telecommunications, roads or potable water.

Ecotourism – Help conserving bio-cultural diversity

If you enjoy travelling to unspoilt natural sites you can actively help to protect the natural richness and heritage of these places. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as:

“responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” (TIES, 1990)

By choosing tour operators who follow the principles of ecotourism or by staying at eco-friendly lodges, you can help to protect the natural environment and grow the sustainablitly of the local people.

I have started this website to provide information and inspiration for travellers who are interested in responsible tourism or ecotourism and who are seeking experiences off the beaten track.

TripSpirit provides information on:

  • Social Projects

    which support local communities and offer unique experiences for travellers.

  • Volunteering

    and its effects (good and bad) on the local people, help finding genuine programs.

In my Blog section you will find personal travel experiences and various other topics related to responsible travel, volunteering and local community development.