What is Sustainable and Responsible Tourism?

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sustainable tourism

Should we refer to it as responsible tourism? Or is it sustainable tourism? This is one time that the name doesn’t really matter. It is the behaviour that does. The behaviour of the host destination as well as the traveller. But before we get to the nitty gritty of how to be a responsible traveller, let’s define what sustainable and responsible tourism actually is…

According to the World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism is “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities” 

This refers to creating a suitable balance between the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, essentially:

  • Maintaining and preserving ecological processes ensuring that natural heritage and biodiversity are conserved.
  • Respecting the culture and traditional values of host communities and contributing to a greater understanding and tolerance.
  • Ensuring viable and long-term economic operations that provide tangible socio-economic benefits, such as employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, are provided to all involved and that these benefits are fairly distributed. Including social services such as healthcare and education facilities, all of which together contribute to poverty alleviation.

And as defined in the Cape Town Declaration in 2002 alongside the World Summit on Sustainable Tourism, responsible tourism is “about making better places for people to live in and for people to visit”.

The Cape Town Declaration recognises that Responsible Tourism takes a variety of forms, it is characterised by travel and tourism which:

  • seeks to maximise positive economic, environmental, and social impacts and to minimise negative ones.
  • enriches the well-being of host communities, generates greater economic benefits for local people and improves working conditions and access to the industry.
  • involves local communities and the people that live and work in them in decisions that affect their lives and life changes.
  • contributes positively to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, and to the maintenance of the world’s diversity.
  • provides meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social, and environmental issues.
  • provide access for people with disabilities and the disadvantaged.
  • is culturally sensitive and generates respect between tourists and hosts and builds local pride and confidence.

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