Responsible Tourism: Whose Responsibility Is It to Educate Travelers?


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November 26, 2014

During last week's Responsible Tourism Twitter Chat (#RTTC), which was around the theme "Indigenous communities and responsible tourism", I came across and discussed this question: Who’s responsible for educating travelers about responsible behavior?

Responsible Tourism: Educate Travelers


We All Need to Be Responsible, But Are We Doing Enough?

In our mini-chat about this question that happened within the #RTTC chat, I suggested that the responsibility likely lies on and should be shared by all stakeholders including source markets, destinations, tour operators, as well as guides and hosts. An important aspect of this answer, as pointed our by Roberta Kravette of Wildlife Destinations, is that we as travelers are also responsible for educating ourselves.

Responsible Travel Chat - Educating Travelers
"Who's responsible for educating travelers"?

This suggestion - that everyone involved in benefiting from tourism, including travelers, should be responsible for responsible travel education - probably sounds reasonable and somewhat common-sense to many people. But the reality of our industry today, I think, is that there’s still a big gap between how important we know educating travelers is and how travelers are actually getting opportunities to be educated about traveling responsibly.

That said, there are many initiatives and resources - including, of course, the #RTTC - that are helping improve the status quo. Here are just a handful of examples of organizations, programs and campaigns that are aimed at educating travelers about responsible travel. These are great resources for tourism businesses and organizations that are (or want to be) actively engaged in responsible tourism and are seeking to play a role in helping their customers travel more responsibly.


Responsible Tourism Solutions: Helping Travelers Make a Difference

Your Actions Count is a campaign by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and its partners, aimed at raising awareness among travelers about trafficking issues. Presenting data on wildlife, human, artifact and counterfeit trafficking, the campaign offers concrete recommendations on what individual travelers can do about each issue.

Responsible Tourism Actions Campaign

"We often talk about the government's responsibility and the industry's responsibility, but we often don’t talk about the traveler’s responsibility - each of us is responsible for our actions, and we can actually make a difference if we take that stance" - Sandra Carvao, Chief, Communications and Publications, UNWTO World Tourism Organization ("Better Wildlife Tourism - Whose Responsibility?" by World Travel Market)


Travelers Against Plastic (TAP) Campaign focuses on engaging travelers and tour operators through a simple solution - using a refillable water bottle and water purifier on the road - to the massive plastic pollution problem facing tourism destinations around the world. Travelers, as well as operators, can learn about the problems and the solutions, and be part of a worldwide community that's making a tangible impact on the tourism industry's efforts to reduce waste and protect water resources.

"It is our responsibility as tour operators to educate our clients that simple steps like bringing reusable water bottles and a SteriPen or filtering system will make a huge difference to the communities we visit and even sends a message to local residents that they can do the same thing." - Kurt Kutay, President, Wildland Adventures & Director, Travelers Conservation Trust ("Plastic Water Bottles, Begone! Travelers Against Plastic Campaign Launched" by Ethical Traveler)


Pack for a Purpose is a non-profit organization that connects travelers with community projects in need of supplies by facilitating donations of goods through local accommodation providers. Pack for a Purpose promotes a simple idea that travelers can better utilize extra space in their suitcases to positively contribute to the communities they visit. By providing a platform for accessing information on what local needs are and on how and where to donate, and by engaging local lodgings to help with the logistics of such donations, Pack for a Purpose helps make it easier for travelers to make a tangible difference.

"More businesses are becoming aware of the fact that no matter what kind of trip they are taking, be it an awards trip or a business meeting, they can give it more value. One of our favorite sayings is 'when you pack for a purpose, the trip you take goes much further than the miles you travel'." - Rebecca Rothney, Founder, Pack for a Purpose ("Purposeful Packing" by Immersion Travel Magazine)


Educating Travelers Through Stories

Travel media, bloggers, writers, communicators and content creators who have wide reach locally and globally and are trusted by travelers are also in a great position to help educate travelers about responsible travel. And their engagement in efforts to educate travelers is critical, as the industry needs more support from expert travel storytellers who effectively inspire travelers and thus have an important impact on the choices they make.

In this area, there are also many great examples of leaders and trailblazers who are educating, engaging, and inspiring travelers by promoting conversations about responsible travel. It’s not only helpful to learn from their stories, but tourism businesses and organizations can also join, support or partner for these important efforts to spread the word about traveling responsibly.

Here, again, are just a few places where you can find such inspirations (and I’m sure there are many other examples).


So what do YOU think? Whose responsibility is it to educate travelers? Does your company educate travelers about responsible travel? Does your tourism organization focus on awareness building among travelers? Please share your ideas and examples!

Ayako Ezaki is Co-Founder and Director of Training Strategies & Development at TrainingAid, an international tourism and training company offering training and skills development opportunities for tourism industry professionals.