Understanding what responsible tourism can be, the first step hoteliers can take in creating strategies that benefit tourists, the environment, and local communities. Responsible tourism seeks to lessen the adverse effects of mass tourism by ensuring tourism promotes local cultures, protects the environment, boosts the local economy, and involves the local communities in sustainability efforts. It's driven by an awareness of tourism's effects on host cultures, economy, ecology, and local people and involves taking strategic steps to lessen these effects.
Responsible tourism aims to:
- Provide tourists with meaningful experiences while maintaining a healthy respect for heritage, local cultures, and people.
- Enhance the well-being of host communities by directly and indirectly contributing to the local economy.
- Support sustainability by promoting conservation of natural heritages and respect for local cultures.
- Promotes diversity by encouraging respect between local cultures and tourists.
The impact of responsible tourism
The global tourism industry has grown at an unprecedented rate over the past few years. The desire to visit new places, break routines, meet new people, and experience different cultures have been major contributing factors in world tourism today. With a global employment rate of over 10 percent, the tourism industry is inarguably one of the biggest industries in the world today. While the tourism industry contributes significantly to global economic growth through revenues and employment, its adverse effects far outweigh the positive ones.
Responsible tourism seeks to mutually protect the interests of tourists, local communities, the environment, and the companies that operate in the tourism industry. It aims to correct the damaging effect of mass tourism by encouraging the protection of host communities, sustainable development, and promotion of the local economy.
Responsible tourism can promote the following positive effects:
- Responsible tourism minimizes the conflict between local communities and tourists by promoting mutual respect for sharing of resources. For instance, when hoteliers introduce recycling equipment to reduce littering and adopt technology that reduces resource wastage, the local community might be inclined to support them or become motivated to join these efforts.
- Through responsible tourism, hoteliers lessen tourism density in heritage sites, reducing overcrowding, which allows tourists and locals to have meaningful exchanges that can be mutually satisfying.
- It protects host communities from exploitation by tourism agents with the sole motivation of commodifying local cultures and lifestyles.
- Responsible tourism encourages hoteliers and local governments to protect the authenticity of local heritages by preventing standardization practices that seek to corrupt the uniqueness of tourism destinations. For instance, hoteliers can stop developing facilities such as fast-food joints to cater to tourist needs.
Responsible tourism encourages hoteliers, local communities, and tourists to work together in sustainability efforts that protect current resources to ensure they meet the needs of the current and future generations. By persuading tourists to use eco-friendly transport, responsible tourism protects the environment against pollution. As the first point of contact with tourists, hoteliers can educate them on the effects of plastic pollution on the environment, exploitation of wildlife, and disruption of the integrity of cultural heritages.
Responsible tourism can positively affect the local economy by ensuring that money generated from the tourism sector boosts the economy of the host communities. As key drivers of responsible tourism, hoteliers can help boost the economy of local communities by:
- Encouraging tourists to purchase locally made products.
- Purchasing supplies from local businesses that cannot compete with global retailers in securing hotel tenders.
- Incorporating local culture products as part of tourists' packages when promoting tourism products.
- Acquiring labour force from local communities and compensating fairly.
- Paying taxes to the relevant authorities.
- Taking part in community development programs and donating resources where necessary.
The hospitality industry is arguably the biggest beneficiary of responsible tourism. This industry comprising hoteliers, tour & travel companies, restaurants, and bars can only survive in the long-term if there is a responsible use of resources. When natural and cultural resources are exploited or damaged, tourists may lose the appeal to travel to tourist destinations, resulting in less travel that can cause hoteliers to go out of business. By encouraging conservation, responsible tourism guarantees the long-term survival of the hospitality industry.
What are the five key aspects of responsible tourism?
Aspects of responsible tourism include:
- Environmental, social, and economic effects of tourism development
- Protecting the economic interest of the host communities
- Promote environmental conservation
- Promote cultural diversity by bringing local communities and tourists together for mutual benefits
- Maintaining viability and profitability of tourism resources.
What is an example of good responsible tourism?
A remarkable tourist destination promoting sustainability conservation and giving tourists a unique experience is the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. This magnificent artificial resource combines ecological sustainability with beautiful architecture that has attracted over 50 million spectators to date. The garden promotes sustainability by using horticultural waste from the park to generate clean energy that powers the garden. All the garden trees have solar panels that enable the garden to power light shows at night. The facility is eco-friendly to aquatic plants, critical for the survival of the dragonflies' habitat within the garden.
The tourism industry has grown tremendously because of the well-being of local people, communities, the environment, and tourists. Unfortunately, the huge impact mass tourism has on the global economy has been at the expense of local communities and the environment. As critical agents of responsible tourism, hoteliers have a duty to protect the cultural integrity of local communities, the environment, natural and artificial resources and improve the economic ability of local people. Instead of promoting mass tourism, which is driven by creating profit, they can promote responsible tourism that seeks to maintain mutual benefits for everyone in the tourism industry food chain.