Driving our project is the argument that responsible tourism functions best if tourists are politically informed. We don't want to over-politicize your holidays, but tourists visiting countries such as Burma should not romanticize and turn a blind eye to the realities of the country. Knowledge about Burma will help tourists make responsible decisions during their holiday. Tourists will have a better travel experience simply because they have knowingly visited businesses engaged in effective outreach programs.
What is responsible tourism?
Responsible tourism is an evolution of green and sustainable tourism. Responsible tourists are not only interested in environmental issues, but are also concerned with human rights or the working conditions of the people serving, driving or guiding them. Responsible and aware tourists choose to empower or discriminate businesses based on their ethical practices.
Sustainable tourism is the general term that describes environmental awareness, social justice and maximizing the economic benefits for the local community. Responsible tourism implies that specific individuals and businesses are asked to be aware of their actions and to take responsibility for their actions. Both responsible tourism and sustainable tourism have the goal of sustainable tourism development, but neither term should be mixed up with eco-tourism, which refers to small-scale tourism in protected natural areas that strive to be low impact.
Responsible tourism is not only “eco-tourism” (but eco-tourism is part of the wider term responsible tourism). Responsible tourism does not only take place in natural environments. Any tourism business in Burma can be a responsible tourism business, whether it's located in a city, in rural areas, by the beach, on a mountain or in a nature park.
We use the term responsible tourism because it emphasizes tourists' responsibilities. People often judge others without looking at themselves and expect them to behave in a sustainable way instead of looking at their own actions. We use the term 'responsible tourism' because we emphasize every single actor's duties and responsibilities.
The concept of sustainability in tourism is very successful. The widespread adoption of the term “sustainability” in government, industry or NGO statements shows that is the buzz word of the past decade. We don’t dispute that there are many encouraging cases of truly sustainable tourism development in the world, but too often the term sustainability has become part of a clever PR strategy for businesses and governments. Such approaches are narrowly focused because their “solutions” generally exclude social, environmental or human rights issues.
The biggest problem is that tourism is less sustainable than ever.
We are being told by the World Travel and Tourism Council that tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, employing more than 235 million people and generating 9.2% of global GDP. Yet we use more resources than ever and uncontrolled tourism development is a major contributor to the loss of biodiversity. The gap between rich and poor is widening, partly due to tourism development that benefits the elites but not those mostly in need.
At the same time, tourists are becoming increasingly sophisticated and informed. This has the effect that confidence in green advertising is at an all-time low. Exaggerated or misleading claims are a problem not only for the good guys but also for the bad, because all will be losing out in the future if this tendency continues.
Clearly sustainability is the central challenge of our times.
We hope responsible tourism is not just a niche, trend, fad or fashion. More people are booking responsible holidays, and at the moment there is a worldwide trend that has the betterment of our planet at its core.
The question is how each and every one of us can harness tourism to support sustainability.