Why Responsible Travel matters
Since Boeing introduced the 707 aircraft in 1958, the number of international tourism arrivals has been growing exponentially. Today there are over 1 billion people travelling every year, number which is expected to keep on increasing.
This is one of the reasons which turns tourism into a fragile product that needs both protection and regulation through correct tourism policies, especially because nowadays the travel industry operates in a price driven market where margins are excessively squeezed, what too often means that the quality of service is driven down and the destinations degraded. Fortunately, costumers are already punishing companies that do not operate responsibly, since they obviously notice when a business is actively caring for the product.
All forms of tourism have impacts. The difference is that the aim of Sustainable Travel consists on maximizing the benefits of tourism while minimizing harms.
Travelling responsibly is not about long check-lists whose tasks and reminders are there just to be crossed off. The genuine Sustainable Travel is about taking responsibility for achieving Sustainable Development Goals through tourism, about identifying the environmental, economic and social issues which matter locally and tackling them. The aspiration of Responsible Tourism is to use tourism as a tool for development, rather than being used by it.
It is therefore essential that all parties involved in the Hospitality and Tourism field are well-informed, so that each one can take and exercise their individual responsibility for their own actions.
So whose responsibility? Everyone! Tour-operators, incoming agencies, local and national tourism authorities, hoteliers, attractions and heritage spots managers, local communities and travellers. We all have our respective responsibility which cannot be outsourced to anyone else. Unfortunately, as it usually happens when something is “everybody's responsibility”, it can turn into a delusion, where nobody is responsible for anything. And that is what we need to overcome.
It is absolutely necessary that people see what they are responsible for, where and how they can make a difference through their travel choices, and then get them motivated to do it. That is precisely one of our responsibilities at Handspan.
Are you this kind of curious person in need of more information about Why Sustainable Travel matters? Here you will find out some concrete reasons:
- Because it is a powerful force to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It ensures that future generations will enjoy their place of residence (which will work as a tourism destination for others) and will be also able to travel to destinations that we love now. As opposed to mass tourism, which wreaks havoc due to little or an absence of background research, Responsible tourism is economically, socially and environmentally viable in the long-term, thanks in large part to the existence of an innovative Destination Management Plan.
- Because it is about supporting local economies, about lifting people up and empowering them. The revenues associated with tourism services remain in the host economy. The economic benefits do not leak out to transnational tourism companies abroad who mostly work with mass tourism by offering “package deals” through which huge amounts of resources are consumed, while giving little back to local communities and often exerting direct stress on them. Quite the opposite, Responsible Travel is based on a close collaboration with local communities in order to foster infrastructure, economic growth and stability. It helps to keep the tourism wheels turning in the interest of both residents and visitors, since as the benefits remain where the services are provided, they are used in developing the country, to improve infrastructures, to invest in other facilities.
- Because it seeks the coalition of many stakeholders and interests and not a unilateral distribution of profits among shareholders. It is a win-win activity for everyone: Travellers gain appreciation of other cultures and experience the personality, lifestyle and the authentic character of the destination. Suppliers improve profitability, gain customer loyalty, attract talents and enhance employee loyalty. Host communities enjoy improved local employment opportunities, improved infrastructures, access to services and an increased participation in decision-making.
- Because environmentally, the priorities are managed, monitored and tackled locally. The only environmental global issue is climate change, the rest of environmental problems must be identified and faced locally so that we can get to that point, where by carrying out some positive actions on a local/regional scale, we will be contributing to make positive impacts against global warming.
- Because it encourages travellers to explore the ancient history and culture of the whole area, not just a few tourist hotspots. So it strives to take pressure off natural and historical places and cares about giving a much wider perception to the visitor.
- Because it creates employment in rural areas, preventing the urban drift. Why all the “good jobs” are supposed to be found in the city? Those professionals, entrepreneurs, workers and artisans who rather live in the countryside should be able to do it.
- Because it is the most enjoyable way to travel. Sustainable holidays are better holidays! The quality of guest's experience is strengthened. Travellers are not viewed as mere units of consumption, but as guests seeking to be healed and transformed. That is why it is focused on experiences, on novelty, on providing memories and knowledge to visitors who seek escape, authenticity, recharge, exploration and more meaningful connections with local people, instead than passive sightseeing.
- Because it is the result of a careful preparation, research and segmentation which allows to bring the right destinations to the right traveller and the right traveler to the right destination. Visitor's needs and motivations fit in with the characteristics of the destination.
- Because it creates and develops thriving destinations which are attractive to both the youngest local generations, who will feel motivated to “stay at home” and to the visitors, who will appreciate the fact of being able to experience their stay in what is actually an authentic, vivid village or town.
- Because it supports and enhances Cultural Diversity, Identity and Heritage. It is aimed to build strong and vibrant destination brand identities, since its destinations are not seen as a resource to be exploited, but as a sort of sacred place to be protected and celebrated for its uniqueness. That is why part of the direct benefits are allocated as funds for conservation purposes.
- Because it encompasses most types of tourism. Responsible travel is many times misconceived as if one could only be travelling responsibly while staying in a 5* ecolodge in the middle of a jungle. Another misconception is that responsible travellers are commonly seen as a sort of hippies, constantly hiking and hugging trees. This perspective is absolutely wrong. An ecolodge can be a sustainable accommodation or not (although it should be, if it really meets the requirements of an ecolodge!), a hippie can be a responsible traveller or not, a holiday by the beach can be a sustainable holiday or not, hiking can be a responsible activity or not, visiting rural areas, visiting cities, travelling for business purposes, honeymoon trips, holistic or wellbeing retreats.... all desirable forms of tourism can represent a responsible way of travel -or not-, depending on how they are practised.
- Because it helps to prevent seasonality in tourism, since there is a wide range of responsible travel adventures suitable for each month of the year.
- Because it creates economic linkages to other sectors, avoiding that the destinations become purely dependent on tourism.
- Because its aimed to make better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.
- Because it affects positively other cross-cutting issues like poverty, education, gender equality, global health, clean energies.
- Because it promotes tolerance and respect between visitors and hosts.
- Because it is an ethical and the most exciting way of travelling, diving into the world and discovering our planet's potential.
- Because you have to make up for the carbon footprint that you leave when you need to fly. A long flight can produce more CO2 per passenger than an average motorist during one whole year. We hope to count on a cleaner alternative to aviation fuel soon, but for the time being, there is not, so we can choose then a responsible holiday and make it count by taking action in the destination.
Take responsibility and do what you can to make Tourism more sustainable. Act and make a difference!