Responsible Tourism

Angkor Wat Cambodia Hanging around Peter and Dtor (see last post) has got me interested in the whole idea of responsible tourism. Especially as we travel a lot, it is hard to be concerned about “greening” the world, when using jet planes so often.

Personally my husband and I have sought out various organizations with programs for planting trees and other ways of offsetting our carbon footprint – to alleviate our conscience.  But we have never considered other aspects of tourism besides reusing our towels.

Peter and Dtor have opened up a whole new world of eco-tourism and ways of making a trip both more meaningful for the tourists and the land you are visiting. This approach is obviously growing rapidly and Asia has many programs that include both tour operators and tourists. Peter flooded me with websites to help me make this blog.  So here we go!

A wonderful and fun introduction to this theme is found in the cute “A-Z Guide to Responsible Tourism on the website The Blue Yonder. With words such as:  authentic, biodiversity, conservation,.. natural, open, profitable… unique, value, wonder– it helps you think of new ways to plan your trip and enjoy your stay.

Some of the popular opportunities now available for travelers are referred to as “Community Based Tourism”.  This might involve visiting remote villages and viewing at close hand old cultures and traditions rarely seen by visitors.  It begins to look like a way to help provide livelihoods for ethnic minorities and poor populations.  However it has been discovered that this is not without risks and negative environmental and socio-cultural impacts.  To counteract this in Thailand, the Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute (CBT-I), and Thailand Community Based Tourism Network Coordination Center (CBT-N-CC)  have developed workshops to optimize market access and win-win partnerships between communities and responsible tour operators. These types of new approach to community based tourism are rapidly developing all over South East Asia . The Mekong Responsible Tourism site has a lot of  practical ideas for trips and activities.    It is heartening to see how a holistic approach is used with much attention to avoiding the risks by focusing on win-win, cultural and environmental protection, equitable benefit sharing and poverty alleviation.

Being an avid tourist myself, I am surprised that I haven’t thought much about these issues but see that others have been working to pursue the idea of using tourism to make better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit. Among the large operators of this approach is The International Centre for Responsible Tourism.  This is an independent network working with governments, tour operators and accommodation providers. “Our aspiration is to be a critical friend, raising issues but working together to find solutions.  We seek to encourage and enable people to take responsibility for making the changes necessary to make tourism more sustainable.”  Advocating solutions based on research and scholarly activity, this organization provides an organized approach to making changes in the tourist industry.  Quite a task!

And how do you get the tour operators to change direction?  How about Awards for Responsible Tourism given out by The World Travel & Tourism Council. This is aimed at recognizing best practice in sustainable tourism within the industry worldwide.  Hotels and resorts are beginning to realize that receiving a “green” label is worth the effort.

On the other side – as a traveler, how do you discover a responsible travel destination?  Here is one site that will help you find an eco-holiday: an adventure, a honeymoon, a farm, a city –  you name it – over 50 categories to check out.  16,500 people “like” this site!  My goodness – lots going on that I have never heard about.

Another new trend is finding ways to contribute by volunteering to work in your travel destination as my dear friends Anne and Espen did. They recently spent part of their Asian holiday respectively teaching English to children and working on an ecological farm in India.  Their experiences were life changing although not always easy.  Anne’s blog posts throughout this trip are worth checking out. Creatively and humorously written they provide deep insight into both the political and cultural aspects of her experiences.  There are plenty of sites to help you find local community projects and volunteering potentials.  Here is one site for teaching English in India. 

Lastly, let me name EplerWood International, an organization that since 2003 has worked for the World Bank to develop sustainable tourism strategies for some of the poorest nations in the world. “Every country’s geographic, social, environmental, and political considerations are carefully analyzed before recommendations are made. The world is full of unique contexts for tourism development, and our team creatively designs tourism in harmony with local resources and human needs.”  Glad someone is using their energy to make this work!

Well I have learned a lot about this topic and I hope you have too!  As consumers, our attention and money can encourage tour operators and airlines to take big steps towards responsible tourism.

Mara Senese

About Mara Senese

Mara is a transformational explorer and guide in the field of personal, leadership and organizational development. She has worked in this field for almost 25 years in Norway and around the world. She is also an painter, sculptor and writer. These days, she is semi-retired but busy working with various projects that support the aims of this website.

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6 Responses to Responsible Tourism

  1. Peter Richards March 13, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    Good on you Mara. You are an inspiration :-)

  2. Mara Senese
    Mara Senese March 13, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    Thanks for all your help, Peter! The feeling is mutual :-)

  3. Brian Arthur Solomon March 14, 2013 at 1:43 am #

    You’re such a cool lady :-). Your wisdom and insights are inspirational. Thanks, Mara!

  4. Mara Senese
    Mara Senese March 14, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    Thanks so much, Brian! Isn’t it perfect that we can all inspire each other :-) I feel very grateful for my new friends in Thailand!!

  5. Heidi Thoresen March 14, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    we are closely on a same path.. Voulentary work is needed where there are not enough food. Money is bad. Trading goods and services i belive in. Give food, love and caring to those who have nothing. But we have to be careful about going into untouched communities still living of the gifts from mother earth as we wore orginally given, and contains ALL WE NEED. They should keep on rest in peace with the divine. nature. They dont need all the bad influence from the western world. The western world needs help. To WAKE UP!

    • Mara Senese
      Mara Senese March 14, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

      Thank you for caring so passionately, Heidi.

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