Responsible Tourism is About the Experience

Across the state of Kerala in India tourists can engage responsibly with their hosts. The RT Mission has created many great responsible host-guest encounters.

One of the core values of Responsible Tourism is respect between travellers or tourists, the guests, and the host communities. The language of hosts and guests is aspirational, but tourism is a social activity. It is what we make it.  Responsible Tourism is about taking responsibility and recognising that tourism is what we, producers and consumers, make it. The Responsible Tourism approach works best when it engages the consumer, enabling the traveller, the holidaymaker, to have a better experience, and the community to have tourism on better terms.

Responsible Tourism provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues and is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts and builds local pride and confidence. A traveller or holidaymaker should be able to taste the difference and avoid any risk of subsequently feeling guilty. Brand damage can result if a client subsequently regrets swimming with dolphins, buying a ticket to watch them perform or visiting, or volunteering in, an orphanage.

Travellers and holidaymakers are increasingly pursuing experiences, willing to pay more for great experiences, even if this means shorter holidays. For my parents what mattered was how many days in the sun they could get for their budget. For today’s travellers with their bucket lists, it is the experience that matters. As Justin Francis of Responsible Travel has pointed out, the decisionmaking matrix has shifted from value for money to experience for money.  Responsible Travel offers to meet the experience expectations of its clients, captured ts Google Ad. “Responsible Travel | Authentic Travel Experiences” and in the strapline on its site: Helping Dreamers Do.  They offer “maximum experience for minimum impact”.

You may well respond that this is not the case in the mass market, but there is a trend there towards people wanting memorable experiences of the places that they choose to holiday. When one of my MSc students in the mid-nineties analysed tour operator brochures, she documented in her thesis an overwhelming preponderance of photographs of alluring but empty swimming pools and bars. The pictorials moved on and the photos began to be populated by tourists having a good time and then later images of tourists interacting with local people and their natural and cultural environment grew in number with tour operators beginning to emphasise, and use in their, marketing local natural and cultural heritage.

With the growth of the internet, local people have begun to offer some really local experiences and to sell them to backpackers, independent travellers and package holidaymakers alike.  Not surprisingly the growth of this market opportunity did not escape the notice of the tech giants. Founded in 1999 Viatour was acquired by TripAdvisor in 2014. Viator now lists 200,000 bookable activities, “incredible experiences,” backed by millions of customer reviews and a  “lowest price guarantee”.

There are a host of other much smaller and specialist web gateways to local experiences, for example,  ResiRest a  global travel platform, that connects locals and travellers through home dining experiences. Often travellers want to discover authentic cultures.  Local families prepare a traditional meal for the traveller or holidaymaker.

There are more examples here of alternative tours, featuring food, street art, village life in Kerala, and guided by refugees and here for encountering the other in slums or to have a homeless guide introduce you to their city.

If there are other examples you know of not listed here please send me details harold@haroldgoodwin.Info


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