Responsible tourism: what does it mean, principles and how to practise it

Responsible tourism refers to a form of tourism that makes social and economic justice and respect its founding principles. It is about travelling with a mindset of responsibility for one's impact on the earth and people.
responsible tourism

Responsible tourism refers to a form of tourism that makes social and economic justice and respect its founding principles. It is about travelling with a mindset of responsibility for one’s impact on the earth and people.

Often in the common imagination it coincides with sustainable tourism. But, there are nuances and differences that make the two concepts slightly different. Certainly they both represent not phenomena but two travel styles that take their cue from specific lifestyles.

Responsible tourism involves both the tourist/traveller and the tourist facility. In fact, even tour operators must spread a culture of sensitivity to issues of corporate social responsibility, environmental sustainability, gender equity and good practices in general.

These actors, as well as institutional ones, must take great care to ensure that responsible tourism is implemented and managed as a whole in a way that does not generate social and economic inequities.

Responsible ecotourism therefore places the social responsibility of the tourist at the centre of the trip. This translates not only into an awareness of nature and the places visited, but also into respect for the local populations living there.

What is responsible tourism

According to the definition, responsible tourism is tourism “implemented according to principles of social and economic justice and with full respect for the environment and cultures”.

In practice, it is a way of travelling that recognises a prominent place for the local community that hosts the traveller. And thus its right to be a “protagonist in the sustainable and socially responsible tourism development of its territory”.

In reality, it is becoming increasingly difficult to define responsible tourism precisely because it is not possible to give an unambiguous explanation of this practice, identifying it, from time to time, with other practices. That, instead, are only meanings or specifications of it, such as ‘conscious tourism’, ‘ecotourism‘, ‘sustainable tourism’, etc. If you like, responsible tourism can be a sum of these practices.

Conscious and responsible tourism: the principles

A traveller who chooses to travel responsibly is a traveller who pays attention to the impact of his or her actions and choices by trying, in every possible way, to defend the destination he or she visits.

If we want, we can define the principles on which conscious and sustainable tourism is based:

  • respect for and protection of the environment, the ecosystem and biodiversity;

  • respect for and preservation of the culture and traditions of local populations;

  • low-level impact of tourist facilities and activities on the environment;

  • informed consent of indigenous populations on tourism activities;

  • active participation in the management of ecotourism enterprises;

  • promotion of a tourist travel experience that gets to know the local communities and their culture;

  • sharing the economic benefits of tourism with local people;

Difference between responsible and sustainable tourism

We speak of slow tourism and responsible tourism to indicate a concept very similar to sustainable tourism. The two are very close to a single form of travelling that is based on respect for the environment and cultures. Although sustainable tourism has a lot to do with issues of environmental pollution and responsible tourism with choices that affect communities.

In fact, sustainable tourism is a form of tourism that recognises the importance of the host community and its right to actively participate in the development of its territory.

In essence, responsible tourism assesses the ethical impact of tourism on the local population and the consequences on economic and social development. A concept that gives ample space to the possibility of returning to travel while enjoying the authenticity of a place, the craftsmanship of its products, the seasonality of the food and the industriousness of the local population.

Whether we are talking about sustainable or responsible tourism, in each case we refer either to do-it-yourself trips, i.e. organised backpacking, or to trips managed by Tour Operators specialising in this type of experience.

Consequently, the cost is never the same, because it could be a very cheap trip or, on the contrary, a more expensive trip than a more commercial tour.

Read also: More and more people choose not to fly: what is the “flight shaming” movement

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