Africa is a continent of contrasts. These contrasts show their faces in nature, wildlife, culture, language, religion and lanscape. Being a tourist in such a contrast-rich environment you set up a new contrast. The contrast between you and the world you are experiencing. In most of the cases you haven't been in the African bush before or in an African city. Most of the times you don't know about local manners, general behaviour and, e.g. hand signs. Cultural differences are normal and don't have to seperate people who are meeting for what reason ever. But it is maximizing your experience when you are as much prepared for this as possible.
The Tourism section will give you some informations, links and tipps how to become an "understanding tourist". Part of this quite high demand are topics as
+ responsible tourism
+ sustainable tourism
These catchwords need to be filled with a meaning and content. They became so popular over the recent years that they lost quite a lot of it. We won't bring up new things, but we try to give you a certain guideline for these words to ensure, that your trip to Africa fullfills all your expectations.
# Responsible Tourism
The responsible tourism movement
As the world of capitalism develops a conscience, political leaders gather momentum to tackle climate change and businesses are responding to the ever-increasing demand for more ethical products.
The current trend, largely fuelled by the acknowledgement that climate change really is caused by anthropogenic factors, is rapidly moving business towards a more socially and environmentally responsible agenda – something green consumers and activists have long been asking for.
With the increased awareness of the (good and bad) effects tourism can have on our planet, the ‘responsible travel’ movement is gathering pace around the world too.
Since our launch 6 years ago, those of us have argued that tourism needs to be re-invented for the long term benefit of everyone; local people, the environment, tourists, and not least the tourism industry itself have gathered momentum.
It used to be the domain of a minority, but responsible tourism is an ever growing trend that has earned its place in public consciousness as have other longer established and better known movements - such as organic, slow food and fair trade. And we at responsibletravel.com don’t feel that this is a trend that is going to slow down anytime soon…
Justin Francis, co-founder of responsibletravel.com says: “People are a lot more aware of the effects their lifestyle choices have on the environment and local communities, and travel is a huge part of that.
This is knowledge that we as a society and as individuals have built up, and will not just be forgotten or ignored. I believe it is a change that was long overdue, and the only way forward for a responsible tourism industry.”
Responsible tourism or eco-tourism?
Although the concept of eco-tourism has been around for a long time, Justin explains it should not be confused with the term responsible tourism. Eco-tourism focuses on the natural world, and sadly too many operators joined the bandwagon without any substance to their claims.
Responsible tourism on the other hand embraces all forms of tourism but there are a further 2 deciding factors: there needs to be transparency about operator's policies, and a form of independent checks & measures on their practices, which responsibletravel.com does through independent reviews from travellers.
Responsible travel then and now
When responsibletravel.com started 6 years ago (we think the first business to use the term), we found only 4 tour operators with responsible tourism policies. Today, there are over 250 operators on our site that have met our responsible travel criteria. In different ways we have worked with tourism companies ranging from small operators and accommodations to larger operators like for example First Choice, who have made headway with their responsible tourism policies and Environment & People report, which focuses on how they protect the environment and respect people both at home and in overseas destinations.
There are now various initiatives in the US - such as the Responsible Tourism Committee founded recently by The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) - and the UK, such as the Green Tourism Scheme, the Travel Foundation and of course the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards that we run. Organisations like Tourism Concern have been working hard with communities in destination countries to reduce social and environmental problems connected to tourism, and with the outbound tourism industry in the UK to find ways of improving tourism so that local benefits are increased. And finally, there is the World Responsible Tourism Day on 14 November.
But it doesn’t stop there - responsibletravel.com is making a difference to communities around the world, marketing small initiatives directly to the traveller and putting them on a level playing field with large scale operators. Take this example of the Walker family, a family of twelve Aborigine sisters who've started a tour company to invite visitors to spend time leaning about their culture. Their marketing used to consist of one of the sisters sitting on a rock outside their village inviting passers by to join a tour. They are now represented on our site, you can see their tours here.
Another example is our community based tourism initiative, linking community run tourism businesses, which often have an occupancy level below 5%, to established tour operators to ensure regular bookings as well as promoting them on responsibletravel.com.
And just how important the word ‘responsible’ has become to tourism is illustrated in the level of press interest received. There is a sense that responsible tourism now is a big community of travellers doing the right thing, and you as a traveller can be a part of that. Help us make sure that responsible tourism is here to stay by proving to the rest of the tourism industry that increasing numbers of us do care about destinations & local people when on holiday… and have a more genuine experience and fulfilling holiday as a result!
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people"
If you want more information about "ecotourism" have a look through the website of the "International Ecotourism Society"
# Sustainable Tourism
Sustainable tourism, like a doctor's code of ethics, means "First, do no harm". It is basic to good destination stewardship.
For more information check the website of the "World Tourism Organization"