Jlag had the pleasure to interview Harold Goodwin. Harold has been at the heart of the movement for Responsible Tourism for the last fifteen years campaigning and working with the industry and governments to develop better forms of tourism around the world. Harold is Professor of Responsible Tourism Management and a Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University. He works with governments and intergovernmental organisations, including UNWTO and UNEP, on governance, tourism and local economic development and poverty reduction. He talks with us about the difference between sustainable and responsbile tourism, he makes reccomandations to the EU institusions. His talk is very inspiring. Enjoy the interview, know more reading Harold’s book: Taking Responsibility for Tourism and take the opportunity to meet Harold at the European Summer School.
How would you define the concept of responsible tourism to be understood for everybody?
It still surprises me that people are confused about the difference between sustainable and Responsible Tourism, they are not the same thing and the terms are not interchangeable.
It was Krippendorf writing in his seminal work The Holidaymakers who first wrote about the sense of responsibility which consumers evidence – look how successful that has been in promoting fair trade and rejecting animal testing. Krippendorf pointed out that “every individual tourist builds up or destroys human values while travelling.’ and that “it is not a bad conscience that we need to make progress but positive experience, not the feeling of compulsion but that of responsibility.”
The fundamental point is that tourism is a social activity; it is not a natural phenomenon. Tourism is what we make it as consumers, producers, communities and their governments. The way of expressing this which makes most sense to people is that Responsible Tourism is about making better places for people to live in, and better places for people to visit; in that order.
This definition comes from the 2002 Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations which drew on experience form South Africa and the UK, form government and business. There were two main reasons for the emphasis on Responsible Tourism. First, sustainable tourism had been reduced to meaning green, sustainable tourism was supposed to be about the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental, Responsible Tourism was in part about reasserting that, based on the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics.
Second, an perhaps more important, Responsible Tourism demands that people respond to the sustainability agenda, that they take action, address the issues, do something about them. Sustainable tourism has been far too much about drawing up long lists of issues – it is easy to agree about long lists of issues, people agree if their issue is on the list. Responsible Tourism is about doing something to address the issues which arise in a particular place – it is about what individuals do in businesses, in government and as consumers. It is about taking responsibility and doing something about the issues. There has been far too little of that
Tourism is one larger and economically more important industry around the world, which is facing deep changes lately. Nowadays, there are new stakeholders and entrepreneurs who are playing an important role besides the classical tour operators, travel companies, hotel and restaurant providers etc. Who are the most innovative entrepreneurs and which are the most innovative practices to contribute to reach a responsible tourism?
Tourism is not really an industry it is a sector of consumption. Disintermediation is a powerful trend in the consumption of tourism for two reasons. First because consumers want a differentiated product, they no longer in Europe want to buy commodified tourism, some of the traditional tour operators and hotel groups have understood this, consumers are increasingly able to exercise choice and to buy direct. The second reason is to do with the technology – the rise of the budget airlines, accommodation and transport booking on line has made it much easier for people to put their own package together. Motivation and opportunity, backed by a common legal framework in Europe and peer to peer review through sites like TripAdvisor, has ensured a rapid change in the market – creating new opportunities for many.
In this global crisis, the economical model has to change. Which kind of new jobs might be created in the tourism sector? What should be new in the professional profiles of the students and young people who will manage the sector in the next decades?
There are two inter-related crises the one economic and the other to do with our sustainability – they are closely related. We have been maintaining our standard of living by borrowing from the future both economically as we have mortgaged the future of our children by accumulating public and private sector debt. And we have unsustainably consumed our natural resources, generating too much pollution and leaving our children with an increasingly serious problem.
The UK government is targetting the growth of domestic tourism, the staycation is becoming more popular. We are focusing on yield rather than international arrivals and many areas are refocusing on the broader visitor economy rather than being concerned only with tourism.
In schools, colleges and universities we need to be working with the industry to ensure that young people and those in their careers have the skills and knowledge to take responsibility and ensure that tourism is managed more sustainably – too few courses provide that foundation now.
The EU commits for a more sustainable tourism in Europe, what is your opinion about the policies of the EU regarding a more responsible tourism?
I do not think that the EU has understood the distinction between Responsible Tourism and sustainability – they appear to use the words interchangeably. I have read the “First draft text of the European Charter for Sustainable and Responsible Tourism” with dismay, it seems to be little more than some high minded rhetoric – what is needed is a set of commitments to action. I notice that it is still a draft – perhaps someone is having second thoughts. Section VI on implementation is remarkable for its brevity.
It would be useful if there was a review of what has been achieved by the programmes which the EU has implemented to date both within the Union and in the Accession States – we need to know what works and why.