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Responsible Tourism Ventures Face Challenges

Change taking place, but not quick enough’

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Mar 22, 2008

KOCHI: “Governments across the world should shift their focus from growth to yield to carry forward the agenda of Responsible Tourism (RT),” says Harold Goodwin, Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism, Leeds Metropolitan University.

Presenting a review of the progress on RT since the 2002 Cape Town conference at the ongoing Second International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations here, Dr. Goodwin said engaging all the stake-holders in the tourism industry was another problem in taking the agenda forward.

“Change is taking place, but it is not quick enough. No part of the industry can be allowed to ignore their responsibility,” Dr. Goodwin who is also the co-chair of the conference said.

Addressing environmental and developmental aspects was another challenge faced by those engaged in taking the initiative forward across the country. There were no blue prints and only local solutions to the problems encountered in destinations, although one could learn from the experience of others. People want ‘guilt-free’ holidays and there were changes in the investment climate. He stressed the need to move from carbon offsetting to carbon reduction. The issue of travel and flights raised profound issues of equity, he added. Considerable progress had been made in United Kingdom and other originating markets after the first conference held in Cape Town, but much more needed to be done to achieve the goal of Responsible Tourism. The developments in Responsible Tourism had been more in tour operations, accommodation and transport than at destinations, he added.

Harsha Varma, Director, Development Assistance, United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), presenting a paper on ‘UNWTO initiatives in community-based tourism,’ said the new initiative was on the top of the agenda of the organisation and the organisation was fully committed to the philosophy of Responsible Tourism. The UNWTO was taking up the initiative at the grass-root level and 100 projects would be covered across the world by 2008. Dr. Varma said the challenge was to spread tourist expenditure and reduce leakages by promoting local supply chains.

Tourism was no longer confined to certain pockets of developed countries. Rather, it was becoming the mainstay of many developing countries.

Tourism was the second largest foreign-exchange-earner for least-developed countries and tourist arrivals in these countries had increased by 86 per cent between 2000 and 2006.

Explaining the progress made by the Sustainable Tourism as an effective tool for Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) project launched by UNWTO at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, Dr. Varma said the geographical expansion of tourism, combined with its labour intensive nature, could support the development of sustainable livelihoods, particularly in remote areas.

The conference witnessed interaction among local, national and international players in the travel and tourism sector. The agenda was a rigorous assessment of the impact of travel and tourism on the world we live in and how the sector met its responsibilities, and the need to do more

Experts recognised that the 21st century brought major challenges and opportunities not only for business but also to the world where travel and tourism formed such a crucial part. Case studies from Bhutan, Laos, Brazil, Portugal and South Africa pointed out some of the best examples of innovative practices adopted for developing tourism destinations.

According to Adama Bah, Chair of the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism, Gambia, “Tourism, with all its possibilities of transferring wealth from the north to the south, needs to do more on issues of poverty, fair trading practices, justice and above all, respect for peoples in destinations in a cooperative spirit that is a win-win for all, not just for big business.”

Change taking place, but not quick enough’

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