Being an advocate for sustainability in all matters including tourism, but writing about “responsible travel”, people often ask me about the difference of responsible travel vs. sustainable tourism. Is there actually one?
Yes, there is!
In a nutshell, one can say that sustainable tourism focuses on a long-term change in tourism practices tackling a long list on possible impacts whereas responsible travel focuses on short-term actions every one of us can take every day to have less of a negative impact on a given destination and increase positive ones.
Responsible travel vs. sustainable tourism
Both Sustainable tourism and responsible travel rely on a three-pillared approach to sustainability, considering economical, sociocultural and environmental impacts of travel. Yet, while sustainable tourism is concerned with global issues like climate change and tries changing the tourism industry as a whole, responsible travel focuses more on the individual actions and individual destinations.
To tackle the tourism industry as a whole, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council have identified general criteria through which tourism practices of Hotels, Tour Operators and Destinations can become more sustainable.These are especially important for tourism professionals such as myself, so we can work on creating generally more sustainable conditions in the industry, which individuals then can take advantage of.
Responsible travel was defined as “making better places to live in and better places to visit” at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. This definition gives new emphasize on not only preserving destinations for future generations to visit, but also to improve and preserve it for the people who actually live in it. It should give the destination and its inhabitants the power to using tourism to their advantage rather than being used by it.
And what about ecotourism?
Ecotourism is one of the forerunners of sustainable tourism and responsible travel. It focuses mainly on the environmental impacts of tourism and is therefore less holistic than the other two. If you want to learn more about this kind of tourism, please visit a separate post about it here.
And what does responsible travel mean to me
I write about responsible travel because it is an honest approach and everyone can participate in it. We as individuals can take responsibility for the impact we want to have rather than blaming companies and corporations for being unsustainable. It empowers us to do the right thing if we choose to do so while encouraging the industry to take responsibility for their impact on destinations without being too instructive.
Responsible travel vs. sustainable tourism recognizes, that tourism itself is not sustainable, but shows us how it can have a positive impact on both the destination and the traveller.
For me, responsible travel is a way look at a destination from a locals point of view, rather than an outsider. It helps me to go deeper than just visiting the main tourist attractions, but actually trying to understand their importance for the local identity, culture and economy. It recognizes the significance of food, music and even street art etc. as part of the local culture making it worthwhile to take actual time to explore.
I am ready to take responsibility for my travels, are you? What does responsible travel mean to you?
(Photo credit: Luiz Esterela via flickr.com)