10 days until Responsible Tourism Week begins and there’s a surge of views on the Planeta Wiki which bodes well for an engaging discussion. What’s a surge? How about 5,000 views for the wiki page in January?
This is Year #12 I’ve hosted an online dialogue and frankly, there’s no way to adequately plan since it’s impossible to get a read on other people’s faces since the participants are around the world, instead of being in the same room. Do they understand the protocols? Do they have working internet access? Are they motivated in creating local events? We get some indications via messages on Facebook and tweets on Twitter (and responses to this blog!), but for the most part, we have no idea what will unfold.
‘Treat others the way they would like to be treated,’ advises the Platinum Rule (which takes the Golden Rule one step further). It has been a great way to imagine the form ‘responsible tourism’ takes when locals and visitors are mutually respectful.
Author, journalist, blogger and apper Catherine Mack asks whether punters give a toss about responsible tourism? If we replace ‘responsible tourism’ with what matters to them, the answer is an easy yes.
Personally, I’d like to think of Responsible Tourism Week as an opportunity to celebrate what we truly, dearly love about travel and what we want to protect precisely by sharing tips with others. This is already the defacto essence of websites such as TripAdvisor as well as Foodspotting and Pinterest. This is a celebration, rather than a campaign. It will be good to reflect on some of the misdeeds in tourism, but I’ll ask participants to take responsibility and show us what they’re doing or willing to do to make things better. Inspire us.
In Oaxaca I’ve put together a directory of local restaurants, stores and markets with the title ‘Leave a Positive Footprint‘ because I’ve seen visitors arrive with their limited time budget and they are seeking some clues. This coming year the directory should make the transition to a more interactive format using Foursquare. Heck, we could even stack the places and people to visit using Delicious or Storify.
The options in Oaxaca and elsewhere are limitless, but rarely are visitors briefed about the practicalities and less so are locals informed of changing trends sought by visitors. What’s needed are ground-level activities in which we talk this out together and unpack the conceptual framework of ‘responsible tourism‘ in more accessible language already being used by visitors and locals, whether it’s supporting the local economy and treating one’s tastebuds via local cuisine or seeking out traditional artesanos who would love to have some fans knocking on the door in search of handmade crafts. Fans of parks and protected areas want to know how to make the most of their journeys, but to get to where the wild things are, there needs to be a better communication.
I’m counting on you to surprise and inspire us with some examples from your backyard, from your travels, from your friends. For those who want to get stuck in to responsible travel: Be engaged, be creative, be generous, be curious and be empathetic. Let Responsible Tourism Week be a catalyst and then tick the boxes. If you’re creative but not generous or curious but not empathetic, you’ll learn something but you won’t get the full experience.