The simplest definition of Responsible Tourism is that it is about using tourism to make better places to live in and better places to visit; in that order. At the same time we hear often that tourism is “One billion tourists, 10% of the world’s GDP, exports of 1.5 US$ trillion annually and one in eleven jobs in the globe.” There is an inherent paradox in a sector which so often presents itself as the world’s biggest industry, proud of its growth, yet pleading for lower taxes or assistance with its marketing.
For World Tourism Day this year the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has launched a series of personal stories about how tourism has enriched the lives of local people. The UNWTO has chosen to recognise the “Chefs, sommeliers, artisans, attendants, tuk-tuk drivers, tour guides, guest house owners, hotel gardeners, travel app developers, dive masters or traditional dance instructors” and many more who every day create and encourage cultural exchanges and bring economic development to their communities.
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UNWTO has published two volumes of Tourism Stories about the “heartbeats behind the tourism statistics”: My Story, My Community, Our Future and How Tourism Enriched My Life, recognising that it is these diverse encounters between hosts and tourists which are tourism.
At WTM this year there are panels on increasing the local economics of tourism, achieving gender equality in tourism, and on the changemakers who have through tourism made a difference.
On Wednesday 4 November – World Responsible Tourism Day – there are the World Responsible Tourism Awards which recognise and celebrate the work of those who have used tourism to benefit communities and their environments and the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism has its 30th anniversary event.
Tourism has to demonstrate that it makes a difference to the livelihoods of local people and the well-being of communities and their natural and cultural environments. It is not enough to be big and to celebrate bigness – the industry needs too to demonstrate that it does good in the world that it brings sustainable development.