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Responsible Tourism decisions must be made locally, say experts

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Local communities are being urged to make decisions and set priorities on how to make their towns and villages better places for people to live and better places for people to visit – the idea central to Responsible Tourism.

At the International Conference on Responsible Tourism (RT) being organised in Kumarakom, experts said travellers and destinations hosting them are growing increasingly aware that tourism is not just about taking photographs, enjoying hospitality and taking back memories; it is about putting something back into conservation efforts and into local communities.

Dr Harold Goodwin, a professor at Leeds Metropolitan University and the director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism, said it is time to turf out “freeloaders” who add no value to the places they visit; and attract people who contribute something to the community by way of employment and revenues, cause the least pollution, contribute to the conservation of heritage and who will enjoy, repeat their visit and recommend it to others.

The aims of RT must include sustainability, improved living standards of local people, lower carbon emissions and animal welfare. The goals for achieving the triple bottom line – economic, social and environmental – should be set locally with the complete involvement of the local people, he said. “Kerala has managed to achieve so much in responsible tourism in so short a time due to the strength of its local bodies, the Panchayats, which are taking and exercising responsibilities,” he said while speaking on the challenges of achieving RT. “While Kerala has made a lot of progress in the economic development of villages through responsible tourism, it is time for it to set a ‘stretch target’ and take it to the next level.”

On the first day of the conference, which is being organised by Kerala’s Department of Tourism in association with [email protected], Goodwin detailed the developments in RT over the past five years at the plenary session themed “Looking Back, Moving Forward”.

Speakers from other parts of the world provided examples of successful RT practices. Dr Adama Bah, the Travel Foundation project for The Gambia and founder of the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET), explained about the RT campaign in the West African nation to protect the interests of small, local businesses and ensure that they benefit from tourism.

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