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Characteristics of responsible tourism

Guiding principles of responsible tourism…

According to the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism [1] the most important characteristics and guiding principles of responsible tourism concept – with regard to the three pillars of sustainability – are as follows:


Environmental responsibility:

  • ensures that negative impacts are reduced to the minimum and positive ones are maximised (based on life-cycle assessment of environmental impacts);
  • uses resources sustainably as well as reduces waste and over-consumption;
  • manages natural diversity sustainably and where appropriate helps to restore it;
  • considers the volume and type of tourism that the environment can support;
  • respects the integrity of vulnerable ecosystems and protected areas;
  • promotes education and awareness for sustainable development – for all stakeholders involved;
  • ensures that best practices are followed.


Social responsibility:

  • actively involves the local community in planning and decision-making;
  • minimises negative impacts and maximises positive ones (based on life-cycle assessment of social impacts);
  • endeavours to make tourism an inclusive social experience and to ensure that there is access for all, in particular vulnerable and disadvantaged communities and individuals (e.g. physically challenged people);
  • combats the sexual exploitation of human beings, particularly the exploitation of children;
  • is sensitive to the host culture, maintaining and encouraging social and cultural diversity;
  • endeavours to ensure that tourism contributes to improvements in health and education.


Economical responsibility:

  • ensures that local communities benefit from development and investments and negative impacts of those are minimised on local livelihoods (for example through loss of access to resources);
  • maximises local economic benefits by ensuring that communities are involved in and benefit from tourism, and wherever possible tourism should be used to assist in poverty reduction;
  • provides offers that include quality products that reflect, complement and enhance the destination;
  • markets travelling in ways which reflect the natural, cultural and social integrity of the destination and which encourage appropriate forms of tourism;
  • adopts equitable and fair business practises, i.e. pays and charges fair prices, builds partnerships in which risks are minimised and shared, recruits and employs staff recognising international labour standards;
  • provides appropriate and sufficient support to small, medium and micro enterprises to ensure that tourism-related enterprises thrive and are sustainable.


[1] Declared by the participants of the Cape Town Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations that was organised as a side event preceding the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.