SUSTAINABLE AND RESPONSIBLE TOURISM
The tourism sector is a rapidly growing industry in most countries around the world. In 2006, the tourism sector employed more than 250 million persons and accounted for 10.4 % of the global GDP. The World Tourism Organization defines a tourist as a person who is “traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes.” However, tourism as a whole is a large concept. It can be divided into, for example, mass tourism, winter tourism, sports tourism, ecotourism or even medical tourism. The impacts and effects of tourism are also multiple. Both positive and negative impacts on the economy, the environment, the culture and the local people and the communities can be detected.
One of the growing “branches” within the tourism industry today is sustainable tourism. In fact, as early as in 1988, sustainable tourism was defined by the World Tourism Organization as "envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems." According to the International Center for Responsible Tourism, tourism can be used as a way of making better places to live and to visit, both for the local people and the visitors. By making responsible choices regarding travels, one can actually help local communities and protect them from the bad influences that tourism can have on them and their livelihoods.
When talking about sustainable tourism one often hears about responsible tourism. In fact, sustainable and responsible tourism have a lot in common since they share the same vision of sustainable development, based on the idea of environmental integrity, social justice and economic development. However, responsible tourism can be seen as a way of thinking as well as a way of behavior. All stakeholders engaging in any sort of tourism activity should take responsibility of their actions and the impact their travel has. Responsible tourism is in fact based on an idea of improving the tourism industry, the fastest growing industry in the world today. Everybody, whether they are the government, an NGO, business or leisure travelers, or other tourism stakeholders, have a role to play in creating responsible tourism and travel. In fact, there is a strong focus on the responsibility of all the actors with the tourism industry.
In 2002, The Cape Town Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations was organized in relation to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. This conference brought together various tourism stakeholders and authorities from all over to world in order to discuss the issue of responsible tourism. The conference resulted in The Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destination.
According to this declaration responsible tourism:
- Minimizes negative economic, environmental, and social impacts;
- Generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry;
- Involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances;
- Makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world´s diversity;
- Provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues;
- Provides access for physically challenged people; and
- Is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
The International Center for Responsible Tourism, World Tourism Organization, World Travel and Tourism Council, Cape Town Declaration on sustainable tourism