How to guide to responsible tourism

How to guide to responsible tourism

Achieving the sustainable development goals isn’t all down to states and international institutions, and in this article, Sam Wigglesworth looks at how the general population have the power to positively influence the rise of sustainable tourism.

Tourism: more than white water rafting and snorkelling tours. There are significant benefits offered by a sector that is often overlooked as a driver for development. It is an industry that is economically as powerful as 9 percent of the world’s GDP, generating an estimated US $1,232 billion in 2015. The head of China’s government noted recently that tourism is one of the “fastest-growing and most resilient industrial sectors…boosting world economic recovery” It plays a vital role in lifting people out of poverty through job creation, and is an effective peace building initiative through the promotion of education, shared culture and history.

In acknowledgment of this, the United Nations has firmly placed tourism on the global agenda as part of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which consists of 17 goals selected to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.

The theme across the different goals where tourism is referenced is for the industry to become sustainable. It should meet the needs of present visitors while also protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future.

Sarahchats/Creative Commons License
Sarahchats/Creative Commons License

Unfortunately these goals aren’t often at the forefront of people’s minds when they go on holiday. Mass tourism has been criticised for exploiting those living in poverty and endangering

biodiversity and examples can be found across the world. Thailand recently just made the decision to close the popular Koh Tachai island due to high tourist numbers and in April an elephant died after giving tourists rides around the famous Angkor Wat temples.

Solutions are rarely simple, especially when we consider questions of capacity.  Elephant riding is largely condemned by animals rights groups, but the problem is complex. Elephants cost a lot to maintain, and in Chiang Mai, where it is a renowned tourist activity,  the average monthly income is around 13,400 baht per month (approximately 270 GBP), and an elephant can cost up to 1000 baht a day (20 GBP) to take care of.

So where does the buck stop? It seems challenging to suggest that someone just making a living is in the best position to start implementing wide reaching, regional and global change, despite undoubtedly having a part to play.

There is an argument that local governments are in a strong position to aid the development of sustainable tourism. Local governments are often closest to the problems associated with tourism development, have access to information about the problems existing in a community and have access to a supportive national policy framework. However, this isn’t without challenges, as local governments in developing countries don’t always have the most effective mechanisms in place to implement such initiatives. Go a step to the top, and international institutions are likely to face cultural barriers to the creation of a sustainable tourism agenda.

Perhaps, in this case, tourists themselves are in the best position to achieve change. A growing industry year-on-year, in 2015 1.2 billion people travelled internationally, up 4% from 2014. That’s larger than any government body and the ones with the most power. If all 1.2 billion people took the opportunity to learn about where they were going, and educated themselves about the culture, customers, problems and opportunities facing where they are visiting, there is a greater likelihood of unsustainable practices being phased out, thanks to the ever present logic of supply and demand.

IAEA Imagebank/Creative Commons License
IAEA Imagebank/Creative Commons License

Additionally, if you’re keen to travel responsibly, it doesn’t require hours of study either: when looking at doing something popular in an area, independent reviews are one way to find out if where you want to go will be an authentic experience. One example is the well documented problems faced by the community at the Chong Khneas floating village outside of Siem Reap in Cambodia. A popular trip for those visiting the town, the area is owned by a private company who control the tourist boat service, making it difficult for those who live in the village to make a living.

Ultimately, taking steps to ensure you’re supporting the local community isn’t necessarily any harder, just a different way to approach travelling. However, it is one that will undoubtedly provide a more rewarding experience to your journeys and is likely to be of more benefit to those who rely on the industry for the long term.

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Earth Day 2014 | The problem with palm oil

Earth Day 2014 | The problem with palm oil

Buying ethically sourced products has become a part of everyday life for consumers wishing to minimise their impact on the environment. However, many of the products we don’t think twice about purchasing may actually contain one of the most harmful ingredients of all, palm oil. Sean Mowbray introduces the ubiquitous culprit and the measures being taken by both activists and industry to clean up its production.

 

Cargill's Problems With Palm Oil
The raw product: palm fruit being harvested in Sumatra, Indonesia. © Rainforest Action Network/Creative Commons

Palm oil has become one of the essential foodstuffs of the modern world. Often listed under the vague term ‘vegetable oil’ it can be difficult to find out whether a particular product actually contains palm oil. However, it is thought to be present in around 1 in 10 grocery items (including ice cream, breakfast cereals, ready meals, washing up liquids and cosmetic products) and to account for roughly one third of global vegetable oil usage, making it nearly impossible to avoid.

As one of the cheapest and high yielding oil crops, palm oil production has increased substantially since the 1960s. Today, the industry produces approximately 50 million tonnes of palm oil annually, but it is estimated that demand will have doubled by 2030, and tripled by 2050.

Palm oil is clearly an extremely important – even staple – commodity of the twenty-first century, and provides an essential source of income for nearly 4.5 million people in Indonesia and Malaysia alone, together responsible for 85% of global output. The problem is not the product itself, but the environmentally destructive methods involved in its production. Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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10 Years on From DiA and I’m Still Learning…

10 Years on From DiA and I’m Still Learning…

TEN YEARS ON FROM VOLUNTEERING WITH DEVELOPMENT IN ACTION MANDARIN BENNETT IS STILL PASSIONATE ABOUT ENSURING THAT INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEERING HAS A LASTING IMPACT AND ETHICAL UNDERPINNING. HERE WRITES ABOUT WHAT SHE HAS LEARNT (AND CONTINUES TO LEARN) SINCE HER TIME WITH DIA.

 

I became the UK coordinator for Development in Action nearly a decade ago. What drew me to DiA was that its philosophy on volunteering and development was exactly in line with what I had learned experientially after a year volunteering in Nepal.

I volunteered with a rural development organization straight after I graduated from university. Every time I thought I could offer a solution or way of contributing, I would realize that it wasn’t so simple. In fact, the more I looked into the root causes of the problems faced in Nepal, the more I discovered how closely interlinked they were with issues back in the UK. I remember thinking that whatever small contribution my presence could offer to a remote Nepali community, I would be able to have a more powerful impact on the same issues as an activist and educator in my own country.

To sum up what I had learned during my year volunteering in a sentence, it would be that the impact of an international volunteering comes only marginally from what you contribute overseas, and much more about what you do with the knowledge and experience you have gained later in your life.

DiA encourages volunteers to continue to engage in debates on global issues, to get involved in activism, to make conscious and conscientious lifestyle choices, and, most importantly, to educate others by sharing what you have learned while volunteering. Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.