The Difference between Responsible and Sustainable Tourism
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-351806,single-format-standard,eltd-cpt-1.0,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,moose-ver-1.1.1, vertical_menu_with_scroll,smooth_scroll,blog_installed,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.10.0,vc_responsive


So you’ve probably heard the terms ‘Responsible Tourism’ and ‘Sustainable Tourism’ being thrown around a lot recently. Whether you’re new to the terms or not, we thought we’d provide a soulful perspective on the difference between responsible and sustainable tourism, and explain why it’s become such a big thing.

2017 has been dubbed the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. You’re probably thinking, ‘OK, great, I hear you – but what does that really mean? And what’s the difference between responsible and sustainable tourism? The two words are often group together, but are they the same thing?’


Those are some good questions! Here’s the low-down:


Responsible Tourism was defined in Cape Town in 2002, alongside the World Summit on Sustainable Development. In short, Responsible Tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” Responsible Tourism requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility, take action to make tourism more sustainable.


To apply, Responsible Tourism needs to:  


  1. Minimise the negative economic, environmental, and social impacts;
  2. Generate greater economic benefits for local people and enhance the well-being of host communities, improve working conditions and access to the industry;
  3. Involve local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances;
  4. Make positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage;
  5. Provide more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues;
  6. Provide access for physically challenged people;
  7. Be culturally sensitive, create respect between tourists and hosts, and build local pride and confidence.


Responsible Tourism is about using tourism to make better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit, in that order.


It is different from Sustainable Tourism in that it focuses on what people, businesses and governments do to maximise the positive economic, social and environmental impacts to tourism. It is about identifying the important issues locally and addressing those, clearly reporting progress towards using tourism for sustainable development.


OK so now we understand Responsible Tourism … what is Sustainable Tourism?


Sustainable Tourism is defined by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”


Basically, Sustainable Tourism should:


  1. Make the best use of environmental resources that establish a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
  2. Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to intercultural understanding and tolerance.
  3. Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all participants that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.


At its most basic, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism do share the same goals. They also share the same pillars. However, they are not one in the same thing. As Dr Harold Goodwin succinctly explains:


Sustainability is the goal, a goal which can only be achieved by people taking responsibility together to achieve it.


Responsible Tourism is about taking responsibility for making tourism sustainable and about what people do to address the many specific challenges we face. 

We’re keen to hear your thoughts; do you consider yourself a responsible traveller? In what ways are you a responsible traveller? If before reading this blog you weren’t a responsible traveller, will you now try to make conscious decisions to make sure you’re helping sustain responsible travel? Let us know in the comment section below!

No Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.