Each month in Spotlight we profile an inspirational individual or travel company working in responsible tourism. The stories we have covered in the last few months have been extremely diverse – from Finland’s first carbon neutral ski resort to visits to the organic farms of Cuba and tours to discover the legacy of Gandhi led by his grandson. However they all share a common belief in the power and potential of tourism to not just mitigate its negative impacts, but also to do something positive, whether for the environment, wildlife or local communities.
Another thing these companies have in common is that they are all official logo supporters of World Responsible Tourism Day – taking place in just a few days at WTM London on November 6th. By becoming logo users for this day – the largest industry gathering dedicated to responsible tourism – they express their shared commitment and belief in the potential for responsible tourism to be something bigger than just what they do in their own communities. Because all these companies feature the logo on their website, because those that visit WTM display it on their stall, it enables our collective voices to magnify this shared message, whoever we are.
World Responsible Tourism Day – whoever and wherever you are
The types of companies and organisations involved in World Responsible Tourism Day ranges from the extremely small, to the national. We have Lamai Homestay in Northern Thailand, who let rooms in their house. But also the Catalan Tourism Board. And World Responsible Tourism Day’s biggest partner of all is the UNWTO. If I could I’d write a Spotlight feature on every one, because they all have remarkable stories to tell, and are addressing such a wide range of issues by using tourism to affect positive change.
This year the themes for World Responsible Tourism Day are Water, Climate Change, Child Protection, Volunteering and Accessibility. And looking across the logo users for this year, it is easy to find examples of pioneering and successful responses to these issues. When it comes to water and climate change, company after company is implementing resource efficient measure depending upon their situation, or encouraging local travel and food, installing renewable energy sources etc.
For accessibility, we have the Australia For All Alliance – Accessing The World. For volunteering, People and Places remains the site to visit for information on responsible volunteering. Likewise ConCert Cambodia has led on the issue of children’s welfare in orphanages visited by tourists. Indeed it was in 2011 at World Responsible Tourism Day that ConCert’s Michael Horton first exposed the many problems that orphanage tourism was exacerbating.
I could go on. In 2013 there have 175 approved logo users for World Responsible Tourism Day, more than ever before. And many of these companies have also chosen to highlight their commitment to responsible tourism with actions in the places where they work. The main event may be taking place in London, yet it ripples across local communities around the world. Just searching on Twitter for @WTM_WRTD or the hashtag #WTMWRTD reveals the variety of actions taking place, such as:
“Crooked Trails are highlighting #WTMWRTD with their newly launched TAP (Travelers against Plastic) campaign.”
“Adventours Puerto Rico are holding Awareness Week with local schools and a radio program for #wtmwrtd”
“The Treasure Trove, Wayanad, India are supporting #wtmwrtd & planting 100 bamboo saplings on 6 Nov 2013 ow.ly/oNSqu”
Many of these companies will be of course present in London next week. Some are speaking in the seminars and debates. Eight logo users will be standing up and talking about what they do at Speakers Corner. Many more will be found at the networking drinks on Wednesday. And of course all of them with stands can be found by looking out for their logo as you wander around.
“We have been an official supporter of the last four WRTDs and found that the date enables us to involve other partners, motivate a wider community and raise greater awareness about how tourism can play its part in creating a better world,” explains Christopher Warren of Crystal Creek Meadows. “Each year the scale and benefits of our actions grow. We see WRTD as an important date that highlights tourism’s positive contribution to society and nature. Being an official supporter builds your company’s reputation, encourages others to take responsible action and demonstrates leadership to your peers.”
This will also be my first year walking around with a World Responsible Tourism Day logo on my badge. So if you have stories to share, want to discuss issues to do with responsible tourism, or find out how you can get more involved at the event, through the website and social media, or in your day to day work, get in touch. It’s going to be the biggest day yet.