The world celebrates ‘World Tourism Day’ on the 27th of September every year. The day aims to foster awareness among the international community about the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values.
This year, the theme of the day is ‘Responsible Tourism’.
We all have certain expectations from the tourism industry, including the upkeep of landmark monuments, cleanliness, introduction of better strategies and so on. When these expectations aren’t met, we’re quick to criticize those responsible for not doing their jobs properly. What all of us forget is that we are equally responsible for our landmarks, cities, monuments and so on.
‘Responsible Tourism’ is not just about cleanliness, or taking care of those landmark monuments. It is a lot more. Responsible Tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” It requires operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists to take responsibility and act towards making tourism more sustainable.
When practised in its true form, responsible tourism can:
- minimise negative social, economic and environmental impacts.
- generate great economic benefits for locals, enhancing the well-being of host communities.
- improve working conditions and access to the industry.
- involve local people in decisions that affect their lives.
- make positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage.
- provide more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with locals and a greater understanding of cultural, social and environmental issues.
- provide access for physically challenged people.
- promote cultural sensitivity and encourage camaraderie between tourists and hosts
- build local pride and confidence.
So, now that you know what responsible tourism is, here are some simple rules you need to follow to do your bit as a ‘responsible tourist’.
- Do your research. Go on the internet and read, or get your hands on a guidebook to understand the place and its people. Try and learn the local language too.
- Choose public transport. If you’re flying, pick an airline that’s sustainable (yes, they exist!). Once at your destination, avoid taxis and cars as much as possible.
- RESPECT THE ENVIRONMENT. Don’t do things that’ll hamper the balance and beauty of the environment (includes plucking pretty flowers and dumping wastes).
- Save WATER! As much as you can, all the time!
- Be more considerate about fauna. Don’t buy clothes, souvenirs and accessories made out of fur, leather or any other animal parts. Avoid eating the meat of endangered animals, even if its a local delicacy.
- Respect the traditions of the place you’re visiting. For instance, covering your head with a piece of cloth isn’t the worst idea in some conservative places. Likewise, if you visit a place that’s not financially stable, try to be a little more humble and not show off.
- Capturing memories on your camera or phone is a must, but it is equally important to make sure that you take pictures only where it’s allowed. As a thumb rule, ALWAYS ask for permission. Some people might not be comfortable with you clicking their pictures.
- Support the local scene. Eat local food, buy stuff from local artisans, travel locally.
This year on ‘World Tourism Day’, let’s all pledge to be responsible tourists!