It was back in 2007 that World Travel Market broadened their Environment Day and took up the idea of Responsible Tourism using the definition adopted at the 1st International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations in the Cape Town Declaration. This year sees the 8th conference in this series taking place in the UK for the first time, in Manchester on the 3rd and 4th April.
Responsible Tourism is about responding to the issues, it is about what we do to address the economic, social and environmental issues raised or caused by tourism around the world. Any kind of tourism can be more responsible, it can be more or less irresponsible. It is about using tourism to make better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit. It is not about developing long lists of issues, it is about identifying the issues which matter locally and tackling them. It is about not being irresponsible and about taking responsibility for doing what you can to address the issues. The aspiration of Responsible Tourism is to use tourism rather than to be used by it, all forms of tourism can be more responsible.
The objective of the WTM’s Responsible Tourism programme is to educate, inspire and to challenge the industry to take responsibility for making tourism more sustainable. WTM is world’s largest Responsible Tourism event with 2000 participants in its programme over three days. Last year the programme was extended to WTM Latin America and this year to WTM Africa. We address economic issues, the environmental challenges and social problems. Last year TUI Nederland won the overall Responsible Tourism award at WTM for their work in developing policies and training staff to identify child abuse, whether amongst the families for whom they provide holidays or abuse perpetrated by travellers in the destination. TUI Nederland demonstrated real leadership by raising the issue with travellers and encouraging them to report suspicious behaviour.
For the industry the challenge of child protection has to be addressed by agents in the originating markets, airlines, accommodation providers, tour operators, guides and taxi drivers. Resort staff and reps face the challenge of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children travelling with them, at risk by the pool or abandoned by their parents. Taking care over visits to orphanages which may house trafficked children, carpet factories and craft markets which may raise issues of child labour, child protection is not just about paedophilia. Child protection is being addressed at all WTM’s shows this year,
Responsible Tourism is about making a difference and any tourism business can take responsibility, respond to an issue and make a difference. It is about what you do. We need to look beyond the label – not all forms of ecotourism are responsible. When I managed adult education courses in another life on of my part-time tutors ran a current affairs class with the strap line “never mind the patter watch the hands.” Transparent and credible reporting of the positive and negative impacts of travel and tourism is essential to progress in Responsible Tourism.