With great power comes great responsibility. – Voltaire
Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, with a combined direct, indirect, and induced global economic impact of approximately US$8.3 trillion in 2017, accounting for 10.4% of the global GDP (World Travel and Tourism Council, Economic Impact 2018). With so much influence on the global economy, tourism has enormous potential to become the world’s most empowering industry. But how much of that power is actually being used for good?
Too many people in this world are not fortunate enough to live comfortably with income to spare. In fact, most people must work hard just to put food on the table every day. But there is a way tourism can help this less fortunate group achieve a more comfortable lifestyle and provide them with more opportunities to prosper.
Lately, there’s been a rise in demand for more socially responsible travel. According to Randy Durband, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), “Sustainable or responsible travel and tourism hit the mainstream media in a bigger way than ever before in 2017 due to the growing awareness of what’s being called ‘overtourism.’” Tourists and travel companies are beginning to recognize the power—and by extension, responsibility—that comes with touring local communities in foreign countries.
More and more options are emerging for authentic and socially responsible tours of local communities in tourist destinations. These are designed to let travelers experience the true culture and daily lives of local people, thus offering much more than a typical “Instagram tour.”
Instead of showcasing only a country’s most popular tourist attractions and putting money in big corporate pockets, tourist companies can give more locals an opportunity to make a living from their passions, history, and culture. This kind of socially responsible tourism opens up a variety of options for non-profit organizations and underprivileged groups, giving them a much needed economic boost that will help them survive and flourish.
Some examples of tourist attractions offered by local communities and organizations include wineries that employ people with special needs, boutique chocolate workshops run by underprivileged youth, local farms that offer food tours, artist studios that offer art classes, and empowerment projects in which women share their stories and showcase their hometowns. The more travel companies that offer these types of tour packages, the more tourism can grow into a socially responsible industry, supporting good causes while still offering tourists an enjoyable vacation.
The travel industry has the opportunity to make a real difference in the world, but it is ultimately up to the tourists themselves to accept and encourage this positive change. By demanding more socially responsible tours, travelers can influence travel companies to use their power for good, giving everyone an opportunity to be part of a greater movement that will impact the future of communities around the world.
So the next time you plan a vacation, why not take a moment to consider the impact your travels will have on local communities? Inform yourself about the suppliers that work with your travel company and find out who benefits the most from your trip. With a more socially conscious tour, not only will you enjoy a relaxing vacation, but you’ll also get to fully experience the culture of your travel destination and feel good about making a difference for the local people. If you’re eager to make a positive change in the world, there’s no better way than socially responsible tourism!