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What is responsible tourism?

If you’ve never heard about responsible travel and have no idea what is it… 

Responsible travel is a new way of travelling and a better way to see the world for all those who’ve had enough of the traditional way (i.e. mass tourism) and would rather “be a traveller not a tourist”.

It is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit”, i.e. respecting and benefiting the environment and the people involved during travelling. However in most cases travelling in a more responsible way also results in more fun and more adventures for the travellers too.


Responsible travel is for you, if you travel to learn about the world, to discover hidden places or to spend time with the locals or you care about the environment and want the people living in your chosen destination to benefit more from your visit.


Basically, responsible tourism relies on the concept of sustainability, and both have an identical goal of sustainable development. The major difference between sustainable and responsible approach, however, is that in the latter all stakeholders involved are asked to take responsibility for their actions and consider the impacts of those actions. In other words, responsible travel is the way of travelling that “puts into practice the principle of sustainability” [1].


Responsible travel is often associated with less comfortable holidays and low-service level (e.g. backpackers) travelling. From environmental point of view, on a very high level, it is more or less the case: the simplest way you travel (and live) the least effect you have on the (natural) environment. But responsible travel is about much more than solely considering the environmental effects. As tourism in general have a multidimensional impact, the concept of responsible tourism takes – at the same time – several aspects into account as well. The most important ones – i.e. environmental, social and economical effects (the same as for sustainability) – are regarded as the pillars of responsible tourism, and these pillars should be reflected in all responsible tourism acts and initiatives.

As such, travelling responsibly does not only mean to take care of the environment when you are on road, but to “respect the host’s natural, built and cultural environments and the interests of all parties concerned” [2].


The overall aim of responsible tourism is not solely to avoid and minimise damages caused by the tourism industry, but the focus should also be on positive effects and positive changes. Thus, in summary, the most important characteristics of responsible tourism include:

  • minimising negative economic, environmental and social impacts;
  • generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities, e.g. sharing profit with locals, improving working conditions;
  • involving local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances;
  • making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage and to the maintenance of the world’s diversity;
  • providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues;
  • adopting equitable and fair business practices.

(For more about the characteristics of responsible tourism read here.)


Making tourism more responsible demands all stakeholders – from single travellers to (small, independent or worldwide) tourism enterprises and to governments – to be involved and have deep concern for the multidimensional impacts of tourism and act in adherence of responsible tourism guidelines.


We as a tour operator, “do our part” by operating our business and organising our tours in a more responsible way. More about what we do >>


However, you as a traveller can also have a significant effect by making your travel decisions responsibly, e.g. considering environmental, social and economical effects of your travel, choosing your destination deliberately and using a responsible tour operator. More about what you can do >>


Sources and for more information about responsible tourism:


[1] D. Stanford

[2] Smith