While it is similar to sustainable tourism, responsible tourism is based on the concept of being culturally, socially, and environmentally aware and responsible in all facets connected to travel. Here, travellers and tourists are called to understand the effects they can have on the places they visit, while also asking them to leave a more positive impact during their visits. With most new (or relatively new) concepts, there are always a few myths about responsible tourism. These myths and misconceptions that surround them cause a lot of confusion especially when you have chosen to debate with someone on the topic without all the facts in hand. It is always good to cover all your bases and get your facts straight before you can even begin to guide someone else.
With That Said, Let Us Look At 10 Myths About Responsible Tourism
Myth No. 1: There Is No Clear Definition:
When you ask the question “What is responsible tourism?” anyone with a clear understanding of the subject will tell you that responsible tourism is based on an easy concept—making sure that the rights and needs of all involved in making your holiday enjoyable are looked after and respected, and minimising any negative impact on the environment during your trip. According to the Center for Responsible Tourism, responsible tourism is defined as tourism that “aims to minimise tourism’s negative impacts on the environment and maximise the positive contributions tourism can make to local communities” or “managing travel and destinations in an environmentally and culturally responsible way and designing tourism programs and individual trips carefully, to provide travellers with the experience they seek, while leaving a positive footprint on their destination.” While there are various definitions for “what is responsible tourism?”, the core concept of responsible tourism always remains the same. It is up to the companies, agencies and travellers to understand and be conscious of their impact during the tours/trips.
Myth No. 2: It Is All Organised Tours:
While there are package responsible tours available, you don’t have to be part of these to be a responsible tourist. All you have to do is follow certain responsible travel practices that will make you one. Volunteering with local NGOs, carrying your own toiletries, using less water, eating and buying local, saying no to plastic, seeking out cultural experiences etc. are various ways in which you can be a responsible tourist during your trips. All you have to do is keep in mind that responsible tourism is all about having a positive impact on local communities and minimising your negative impact on the environment.
Myth No. 3: You Have To Get Rough And Gritty:
One of the most common myths about responsible tourism is that you have to give up all your comforts to be a responsible traveller. While many responsible travel projects include budget travel where you may have to give up certain comforts to which you are accustomed, some luxury tour companies have found ways to ensure that their patrons are comfortable while also adhering to responsible tourism practices. It all depends on the level of comfort you prefer, since any level and style of travel can be done in a responsible manner. A few luxury tour operators like Asilia Africa, Six Senses, Banyan Tree etc. are adopting responsible tourism practices like coming up with innovative initiatives in conservation, staff enrichment training, and supply-chain sustainability.
Myth No. 4: Involves Only Remote Areas Or Developing Countries:
Another myth that is linked to the previous item on the list is that responsible tourism means staying or touring only remote areas or developing countries. While it is true that you can have a larger impact when you travel to remote or developing regions (as tourism is sometimes their main economic activity), you can also have an impact on larger cities like Venice, Barcelona, Berlin, and even London. It doesn’t really matter if you are touring developed countries or developing countries, as responsible tourism is all about your, and the tour operator’s, behaviours. Be respectful of the culture and local communities, do not waste, do not litter, conserve water and other resources, and help out with local environmental and other projects to be a responsible tourist in developed countries or cities, even though your efforts might not be as visible or evident as it would if you had travelled or visited a rural area. But, that shouldn’t matter because the ultimate objective is to leave a positive impression on the locals and the environment, not fuelling your ego.
Myth No. 5: It Is Only About The Environment:
Although looking after the environment and making sure you do not have a negative impact on the same does form part of responsible tourism, it is not the be-all and end-all of this concept. Maintaining and/or improving the environment is crucial for the future generation, as there won’t be anything left for them to see if the environment is completely destroyed. However, in responsible tourism, it is equally important, vital in fact, that those who reside and work in the tourism destination get the benefit of tourist visits. As a responsible tourist, it is important that you ensure that all facets of your travel, from visiting tourist attractions to your stay at a hotel and transportation, have a positive impact on the wellbeing and welfare of the local residents and those who work in the tourism industry. It is also important that you support those tour operators, local or otherwise, that are following sustainable and responsible tourism practices.
Myth No. 6: Travelling Responsibly Is Expensive:
Another amongst the more popular misconceptions or myths about responsible tourism is that it is expensive. Like any other type of travel, responsible travel has a variety of price ranges to choose from, based on your budget or comfort level. You don’t have to pay a premium in order to be a responsible tourist. A simple search on Google will lead you to responsible tourism sites from where you can purchase your tour package as per your budget and/or requirements. These sites will also give you an understanding of the impact that travels and holidays will have on various communities and the environment. If you want a more personal experience or want to find your own way, you can always travel solo or with friends/family. This way, you can have more control over your responsible travel experience and by extent, the cost of your trip.
Myth No. 7: You Won’t Be Able To Enjoy Your Trip:
This is by far the craziest myth about responsible tourism. Who ever said that all you will be doing during your responsible travel is volunteering or living on meagre supplies and bare necessities? No one is denying that volunteering to help conserve and helping with community development projects are great ways to contribute to local communities and the environment, but that is not the whole and soul of responsible tourism. With responsible travel, all parties (the local community, the environment, and yourself) must get some benefit out of the whole exercise. If you don’t want to or are not able to volunteer for some or the other reason, just buying or eating local, staying at local guesthouses, visiting national reserves where the entrance fee goes towards conservation efforts etc. are also considered responsible practices. If you are travelling on a tour package, you can also enjoy activities like taking a small ship cruise, going country skiing, or even going scuba diving, so long as there are benefits for the locals.
Myth No. 8: Flying To Your Destination Is Not Responsible:
While it is true that flying is bad for the environment, responsible tourism is not concerned only about carbon emissions, therefore, if you travel to and from your destinations by flight, it does not make you irresponsible. By buying local, using local guides, eating local, volunteering etc. you can more than make up for that flight you took as these activities will benefit the local communities and the environment more than conventional tourism. If you still feel guilty about taking flights, you can opt for non-stop flights, which are any day better when compared to flights that have layovers as revving up and slowing down the aircraft emits the most amount of carbon gases. You can also choose airlines that have environmental commitments and opt for electronic tickets and boarding passes instead of printed ones. Additionally, you can take solace in the fact that the aviation industry provides employment to millions of people around the world.
Myth No. 9: Mass Tourism Is Not Responsible:
Myths about responsible tourism involving mass tourists is a tricky one depending on how you look at it. Mass tourism (which refers to the movement of a large volume of tourists to various popular tourist destinations for a holiday in an organised manner) is largely considered to cause a lot of pollution and negative impact on various tourist destinations, thereby earning it a bad reputation. This is one side of it, which has its basis in fact. However, if you look close enough and dig deep enough, you will find several companies that are doing their bit and contributing towards responsible tourism. Full-load charter flights can be considered as a responsible means of travel as it is more efficient when compared to scheduled flights with empty seats and travel by public transport instead of a taxi also goes a long way when you are travelling in a group. If you are going as a solo responsible tourist, you can make the most out of visiting tourist-heavy destinations by making friends with the other tourists and talking to them about responsible travel and what it means to be a responsible tourist.
Myth No. 10: Determining Which Companies Are Responsible Is Difficult:
If this was a few years ago, this statement would have been true, as technology was not as advanced or accessible to the masses back then. Now, however, information is freely available thanks to the internet. Moreover, companies that are following sustainable and responsible tourism practices are making this information available on their websites. While this information is readily available, it is still up to each individual to do a bit of research before they believe all the claims made by various companies on their websites. There are also a number of websites that help you find out which tour operators are contributing to the local communities, treating their staff well, doing their best to reduce waste, conserving water and energy etc. Apart from this, there are several global award schemes – like the World Responsible Tourism Awards – that highlight companies that are leading the way in the responsible tourism industry.
Being a Responsible Traveller Is Not Impossible; It Just Takes A Little Effort
“Where there is a will, there is a way.” This saying stands true for almost any scenario, especially in this day and age. Being a responsible tourist is not impossible, especially when you are informed. Busting these myths about responsible tourism will get you that much closer to being a better world citizen. All you have to do is make up your mind and follow through with your decision. You can always ease yourself into the new practices by changing your habits and behaviour in a step-by-step manner, rather than just quitting irresponsible practices cold turkey. This way, you will not only feel better about your accomplishments, but also be motivated to adopt more responsible practices and ultimately transform yourself. And remember, as travellers are, in a way citizens of the world, it is up to us to ensure that we are leaving a positive impact on our destinations and the people around us.