Responsible Tourism

Responsible Tourism

To me, tourism is a vehicle for peace and understanding. Travelling and meeting people is probably one of the best way to understand and respect others and also to discover ourselves. When we get out of our comfort zone we make new discoveries which leads to personal development. This is one of the reasons why I started to study tourism in the Business School of La Rochelle, France.

During my studies, I slowly realised the negative impacts of tourism. More specifically the ones of mass tourism. Over the past years, mass tourism has been significantly increasing. As a result, some natural areas have been damaged and local communities threatened. This is when I took the decision to specialize in responsible tourism.

 Regarding today’s tourism issues and stakes, tourism has to reinvent itself by offering experiences that are more socially and environmentally responsible and which educate tourists. Generally speaking, responsible tourism aims at uplifting local communities, protecting their culture and environment while ensuring a meaningful experience to tourists and raising their awareness.

In contrast with mass tourism where tourists spend all-included stays in hotels and are disconnected from the local life, responsible tourism gives tourists the opportunity to live unique and authentic experiences by entering into the core of the local life. To discover local customs, food, environment and the local know-how. This is why responsible tourism is dependent on communities’ involvement.

Responsible tourism is a complex process which requires the raising of consciousness among tourism professionals and tourists. Fortunately, quiet a few initiatives have been taken all over the world. I too have had to take several internships. I decided to take them in the field of responsible tourism and would like to share with you these amazing experiences, ones that were socially and environmentally responsible.

For my first internship, I lived in Sri Lanka, more precisely in Anamaduwa where The Mudhouse is in the middle of the jungle. The Mudhouse is an eco-lodge far away from the beaten track where people and nature co-exist. The retreat has been created with natural and local materials, using traditional methods inorder to protect the environment.

This place produces its own organic food, energy and uses rain water. Activities offered – kayaking, cycling, cooking lessons, temple visits… – do not harm the environment. I have been the first foreigner to work in this place as only locals coming from the surrounding villages work here.

As a member of the staff leading the nature trail, one of my responsibilities was to educate tourists about the fauna and flora and about the lodge environmental sustainability running system. As a result, tourists were experimenting a unique and authentic experience by becoming immersed into the core of local life. Their global awareness increased at the same time. This experience reinforced my values and beliefs regarding people and the environment. Moreover, I fell in love with this beautiful country.

This is the reason I wanted to discover India, in my last internship. For this new adventure, I joined Greener Pastures, which is a small sustainable travel agency located in Assam, in Northeast India. They provide responsible, authentic and immersive experiences in the Northeast. While making tourists discover local places and communities, their aim is to help the indigenous tribal people and to conserve the natural beauty of the region.

As a French girl, I didn’t really know about the region richness. Interning for a company being a travel expert, I had to learn and visit a bit of the region. I have been astonished by the region’s cultural diversity. Hundreds of tribes live in this beautiful region. In this case, responsible tourism permits to protect these cultures, improve their livelihood and conserve their environment.

Greener Pastures also leads some social projects in the region, such as the fundraising project for Jayav Payeng, the famous Majuli islander also known as the Forest Man, who created a forest larger than Central Park NYC to save the island from river bank erosion. This fundraising project aims at supporting the forest man in his activities and also helping to educate the local communities about the benefits of conservation, ultimately turning citizens into eco-citizens. Because education is one of the keys…

Compared to the other travels I have made in the past, none of them was as intense and rich as these two experiences.

Thus, I really encourage all of you to become responsible travellers and to make use of the services of such companies. I am convinced that this experience benefits everyone. You, first, by living a unique and authentic experience by discovering the local culture and environment as much as possible. Secondly, it benefits the locals by involving them in the process, revitalizing their economy and thus improving their livelihood. And lastly, it benefits the environment, because our earth it is our care. Because after all, nothing is more important that our people and our environment?

I invite you to gain a deeper insight of The Mudhouse and Greener Pastures by visiting their websites.

About Author :  Ines  Coques is a  21 years old French student working on community-based ecotourism.  She loves travelling and spends time on promoting responsible tourism. 

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