Communicating Responsible Tourism

Communicating Responsible Tourism

At this year’s WTM in London we shall be looking back at 20 years of Responsible Tourism in South Africa and in the UK – critically assessing how much progress has been made. We also have a session on communicating Responsible Tourism on Wednesday 9th at 12:15. We’ll be looking at both advocacy and marketing.

Michael Horton from ConCERT in Cambodia will be speaking about the impact of the campaigns against irresponsible volunteering particularly in orphanages, on all forms of volunteering. As Michael says “we’re now seeing the pendulum swinging from the previous general perception that all volunteering is good, to a position where people are now beginning to question ALL volunteering.” It was Michael who first drew our attention to the problems of orphanage tourism at WTM in 2011, an object lesson in unintended consequences and the difficulty of communicating a clear message – only some forms of volunteering have bad consequences. Communicating causes needs to be done carefully to achieve impact without unintended consequences.

CSR has had a long slow death as progressive businesses have abandoned the tokenism of corporate philanthropy – the focus is now on ‘’responsible business conduct “(RBC) Responsible business has entered the core. RBC is about achieving a positive contribution to economic, environmental and social progress, contributing to achieving sustainable development and avoiding and addressing the negative impacts of a business.

Since Justin and I founded[1] 15 years ago consumer expectations have become more focussed on experience and the idea of Responsible Tourism has caught on, the idea has entered the mainstream. From the beginning Justin understood that Responsible Tourism had to “taste better” – it had to offer better experiences. With 10,000+ reviews on the site there is real evidence from travellers and holidaymakers that they offer great experiences – 90% of Responsible Travel’s 100,000 customers have rated their holiday 4 or 5 out of 5. They have refreshed their image and revised their site; it is much more about the experience. Take a look – this is a company growing at 30% year on year, confident about its future and the growth in demand for responsible travel experiences.

As Responsible Travel say on their sitewe know you’ve got things you’d love to do, places you’d love to see, cultures you’d love to jump into and adventures to experience and remember forever.” At the heart of their product are the values of respect and fairness: “Finally, you should know we treat local people with respect and fairness. This pays back by the bucket load because well cared for locals let you get closer to their culture, their people & their nature. Which is good for them and good for you.

Justin’s time at the Body Shop with Anita and Gordon Roddick ensured that he understood the value of a committed business, of marketing and advocacy in creating consumer demand. Responsible Travel remains a business which campaigns for change and that is not going to change. Responsible Travel like many other Responsible Tourism businesses is proud of its social purpose.

Responsible Travel will be speaking on the Communicating Responsible Tourism panel at WTM at 12:15 on Wednesday 9th November.

[1] I subsequently sold my shares and I am no longer involved commercially with the company.

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Harold is WTM’s Responsible Tourism Advisor, he puts together the flagship Responsible Tourism programme at WTM London which attracts 2000 participants each year and the programmes run at WTM Africa, WTM Latin America and Arabian Travel Market. Harold has worked on 4 continents with local communities, their governments and the inbound and outbound tourism industry. He is Managing Director of the Responsible Tourism Partnership and chairs the panels of judges for the World Responsible Tourism Awards and the other Awards in the family, Africa, India and Latin America. Harold works with industry, local communities, governments, and conservationists and undertakes consultancy and evaluations for companies, NGOs, governments, and international organisations. He is also a Director of the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he is an Emeritus Professor, and Founder Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism promotes the principles of the Cape Town Declaration which he drafted.

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