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What Is Responsible Tourism?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen

Responsible tourism is a philosophy that promotes responsible, sustainable, and ethical practices in the travel and tourism industry. In responsible tourism, organizations and individuals are encouraged to institute policies and practices that benefit residents of areas that are frequented by tourists, vendors that provide services to tourists, and the tourists themselves. Promoters of this type of tourism frequently assume a holistic ethic of tourism that respects the culture, environment, and economy of areas that invite tourism and rely on income from tourism to sustain their economies.

The notion of responsible tourism was born out of efforts to promote sustainable boom tourism in areas where there may be a significant disparity in the economic situation between tourists and local residents. In some cases, tourism practices have resulted in ecological damage and economic injustice. In addition, it has been noted that some tourists enter areas with little regard for the customs and values of local residents. Responsible tourism seeks to promote respect for the environment and culture of travel destinations while also ensuring that local people benefit from tourism.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Steps toward responsible tourism can vary by community as well as the willingness of travel vendors to participate in sustainable, respectful business practices. Governments also play a role in developing infrastructure such as safe roads and public transportation systems that encourages tourism while also promoting policies that protect the interests of local residents, particularly the poor. It is also important that residents participate in sustainable tourism efforts by providing input as to the needs of their communities as well as being open to developing an understanding and respect of their tourists.

In many cases, steps toward responsible tourism may include efforts to protect the environment at sites frequently visited by tourists. For example, access to areas with fragile ecosystems may be restricted during certain seasons. Other efforts may include educating tourists about the cultures they visit and encouraging tourists to be respectful about cultural and religious differences. Tourists may be requested to dress modestly or refrain from taking photographs in certain situations so as not to offend local standards.

From an economic standpoint, responsible tourism encourages the development of locally owned travel-related businesses, such as transportation companies and hotels. In addition, these businesses are encouraged to provide jobs to the community by hiring local workers at fair wages. Tourists and tourism companies may also be encouraged to participate in local economic development by setting fees and prices so as to be able compensate local vendors and employees fairly.

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