By Blake Ng — 29 Mar 2018
Many tour and activity companies operate in destinations that rely heavily on tourism to fuel their local economy. These tour and activity operators are often looking to generate buzz about their destination in order to encourage travelers to visit their area and book their tour products. While there’s nothing wrong with raising awareness about the amazing attractions and amenities that your region has to offer, it’s important to promote and implement responsible tourism practices. Negative tourism practices can damage local communities by creating excess waste, pollution and a higher concentration of littering. Tourism can also put pressure on local resources such as energy, food and water, which can be particularly damaging to fragile communities and economies. Currently, tourism accounts for almost a tenth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
This isn’t to say we should abandon travel. Tourism can regenerate local economies, encourage cultural exchange, and help provide justification and funding for the protection of natural resources. When balancing the pros and cons of traveling, it becomes clear that we need to find a balance between encouraging tourism while also safeguarding the environment. This is where the role of sustainable tour operators comes into play.
A responsible travel tour operator supports both their local community and nature. This gives customers assurance that their holidays are benefiting not only themselves, but also the community and environment they are visiting.
Responsible tourism is the practice of promoting your region in a way that benefits the local culture, environment and economy. It provides visitors with an authentic experience and insight into the local area, without sacrificing the natural beauty of the destination or without taking advantage of the people who call it home. Responsible tourism practices take into account the footprint that the company has on the environment, on the local citizens and on the culture and history of the area. When someone travels responsibly, they are acting in a way that shows respect to their cultural and natural surroundings. In a sense, responsible tourism is an investment that will protect the environment your tour or activity operates in while also providing a satisfactory, eco-friendly service for your customers. We’ve summarized 4 of the most effective responsible tourism guidelines below to help you conceptualise how your tour operating business could adopt more sustainable practices.
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There are countless ways you can adopt green tourism characteristics and guidelines at your tour and activity company. Responsible tourism often supersedes company policies and relies on concerted, continual efforts from both the tour operators and their customers. Here, we cover 4 of the most popular avenues to ensuring sustainable responsible tourism as a tour operator:
It’s important to properly assess the sustainability of the equipment you use when running and organising your tours or activities. Inside the office, you may want to consider investing in smart technology that reduces the energy you consume, or developing an energy management program. Power down devices at nighttime, turn off lights in rooms exposed to natural daylight, and maybe even invest in low-energy lightbulbs.
Outside the office, electric vehicles and rechargeable audio and visual equipment can also play a role in promoting eco-friendliness within your organisation. To combat problems like littering or overconsumption, invite your guests to bring a reusable bottle filled with water rather than selling bottled water to your guests. In addition to this, you should also have recycling bins available on your tour vehicles and within your office. This can prevent additional waste while promoting the importance of recycling.
Also, consider bringing reusable items on your tours such as cutlery, plates, containers and bags, which will all help reduce your consumption of single-use plastics.
Promote growth within your local economy by hiring nearby residents and using as many locally-sourced goods and supplies as possible. Most people who live in a tourist destination rely on the tourism industry for jobs, so it is important that you provide opportunities with fair pay whenever possible. It’s also a good idea to showcase local goods and products that are unique to your destination. You may even want to partner with nearby businesses to sell those products to the travelers who book your tours. This is an easy way to add life to your local economy while at the same time authentically enhancing the experience of the people who are visiting from afar.
A necessary component of ensuring responsible tourism is providing accurate information about the local culture in your region. Accurate information will encourage your guests to be polite and respectful at all times – something that is especially important for tours that take place in or near sacred indigenous sites. Most travelers are not purposefully rude or disrespectful. In many cases, they simply are unaware of cultural norms or traditions. You can be a valuable resource to travelers who wish to learn more about the world around them, and could also provide them with additional information if they express interest in further supporting the local community. Consider creating a list of the best charities in your local area that travelers may want to donate to or volunteer for.
If you want to practice responsible tourism, it’s a good idea to organize intimate, small group experiences rather than potentially contributing to overtourism. Smaller groups will naturally have a less of an impact on the local environment. In addition, many of your guests will find this to be a more personable and rewarding tour experience. Small groups are great for meeting new people, and offer a far more personalized, authentic experience. Customers will often feel more engaged with your tour or activity if they’re not overwhelmed by large crowds. Plus, small group experiences tend to use smaller, more fuel-efficient transport vehicles.
Tour and activity operators across the globe are going to be focusing on sustainability initiatives and responsible tourism practices in the year ahead. To stay on top of the other industry catch phrases that you need to know this year, be sure to download the Rezdy Ultimate Travel Tourism Glossary now.