The Responsible Tourism programme of talks, presentations, discussions and interviews held across all four WTM shows reflects the broad agenda of Responsible Tourism. At WTM London last week there were sessions on plastics and child protection, the sharing economy and overtourism, partnerships and animal welfare. The Responsible Tourism is broad and inclusive.
The name doesn’t matter, Responsible Tourism is a broad agenda and there are many groups pursuing particular issues, all of them important. Although individuals will have different views of their relative importance from black female empowerment to animal welfare, the health of our oceans to labour conditions in the sector, from city governments to hotels and tour operators, from ministers to activists, from marketing to child protection. At last in 2018 the panel on child protection drew as large a panel as did the session on animal welfare.
At the heart of Responsible Tourism is the willingness to take responsibility, to act to achieve sustainability. Sustainability is the objective, it is by taking responsibility that we achieve it. The simplest definition is that it about making tourism better, or the meme “better places to live in and better places to visit”. Because, great places to live are great places to visit.
Rather than focus on a long checklist, designed by a committee to ensure the widest possible support from the widest range of people and causes globally, Responsible Tourism seeks to identify issues which matter in particular places such as begging children, guest security or water scarcity. These issues vary and not all issues matter everywhere. I live in a part of England with the same rainfall as Israel and nearly full employments. Water use by the sector is an important issue here. My sister lives in a part of Wales where water is a challenge too, flooding, but where unemployment is high and entrenched. Job creation is the issue there.
Responsible Tourism focusses on the issues which matter locally to local people, their environment and businesses, and destinations should prioritise the issues which matter locally and which can be effectively addressed through tourism. There are many issues which arise in many destinations, but there are arguably only two global issues: greenhouse gasses and plastics, both of which are no respecters of destination or national boundaries.
Some of the sessions in the Responsible Tourism programme focus on raising awareness. In regard to child protection, we are still struggling to get beyond the writing of guidelines. The Responsible Tourism programme was in all parts of WTM London this year and that helped spread the word. The Inspiration Zones, “Ideas Arrive Here” are where in the Responsible Tourism programme we feature solutions – our ambition is to inform, educate and challenge the industry to take responsibility.
The World Responsible Tourism Awards recognised businesses and destinations able to demonstrate real achievement in addressing the issues and the overall winner, Barcelona, is an outstanding example of a destination both recognising that tourism can contribute to making great places to live in, and taking measures to ensure that it does.
Next year we shall have sessions on greenhouse gas emission, plastics and overtourism – if you know of businesses or destinations effectively addressing these issues please let us know. Planning for next year across the four shows has begun. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org