What is Responsible Tourism ?
Responsible Tourism was defined in Cape Town in 2002 alongside the World Summit on Sustainable Development. This definition, the Cape Town Declaration is now widely accepted.
Responsible Tourism is about « making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit. » Responsible Tourism requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility, take action to make tourism more sustainable.
Responsible travels and tourism are characterized by :
- minimising negative economic, environmental and social impacts;
- generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the wellbeing of host communities, improving working conditions and access to the industry;
- involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life changes;
- making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world’s diversity;
- providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues;
- providing access for physically challenged people;
- being culturally sensitive, engendering respect between tourists and hosts, and building local pride and confidence.
The Associazione Italiana Turismo Responsabile‘s members give us another definition: “Responsible tourism complies with the principles of social and economic justice and exerts full respect towards the environment and its cultures. It recognises the centrality of the local host community and its right to act as a protagonist in developing a sustainable and responsible tourism. Responsible tourism actuates to foster a positive interaction between the tourist industry, the local communities and the travelers”.
There are many definitions that match with the diversity of cultural, political and economical contexts in the world. Often, only some criteria above-mentioned are fulfilled. In these cases, it is more correct to talk about “responsible tourism“, “ecotourism“, “cultural tourism“, “community tourism“, “sustainable tourism” and ” fair tourism.” Not only can they all mitigate effects on cultural, economical, social and ecological conditions, but they can improve them.
CSR in Tourism – The Reasons why we are interested in
The Sur la Route du Patrimoine project, first mission of the Responsabilité Sans Frontières NGO (Responsability Without Borders), is meeting and interviewing local projects of sustainable and responsible tourism. It is part of its objectives to promote and foster responsible tourism by sharing good experiences. Responsible tourism and more generally sustainable tourism is one of the alternatives of the mass tourism. It integrates the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into the tourism sector.
The Sur la Route du Patrimoine project aims to share and promote good practices that contributes to the preservation of the natural and cultural heritages, as tourism is one the world biggest industry and impacts dramatically the environment and human resources.
The Local Experience Shop, responsible travel agency located in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, México, gives us a good definition and example of the Responsible Tourism and why we are talking about it in our Sustainable Cycling Tour around the American continent:
A tourism that rescues the native, the natural, the traditional, and contributes to local development and mitigates potential local impacts
Tourists also has to think about their responsibilities and effects when traveling. The European Alliance for Responsible Tourism and Hospitality (EARTH) share with us easy tips to be a « good traveler ». Spread the word!
Certifications and networks
Certification is a marketing-based tool. It links players in the value chain by guaranteeing, or certifying, to users (tourists and tourism intermediaries) that the suppliers (tourism providers) adhere to a specific set of standards and indicators of sustainable
Very few countries have established a system of certification of the responsible tourism. In France, the Association des Tour-opérateurs Thématiques (ATT) established the first official label « Agir pour un tourisme responsable » (ATR), based on 4 commitments and 25 criteria.
Today, this network counts 13 members with the certification. Voyageurs et voyagistes éco-responsables is the biggest French network of responsible tourism stakeholders.
Whereas many certifications are developed for the ecotourism, like in Mexico with the « Norma de Ecoturismo« , very few are for the responsible tourism. At the international level, some attempts. But nothing concrete and official. Here is an International Center for Responsible Tourism’s publication that gives a very interesting reflection about its needs.