Over a cup of coffee, my friend asks 'but just why do we have to be responsible tourists, surely that's the whole point of going on holiday, to be irresponsible?' This leaves me lost for words, I know the academic arguments for responsible tourism, I know the human arguments, but how can I put it so that my 20 something friend will get it. Not just so that she will get it, but so that she might even do it. This whole conversation started on a Tuesday afternoon, a Tuesday afternoon after a Monday night lecture at the Royal Anthropological Institute, where the audience listened tentatively as Prof Harold Goodwin told us we all have to be responsible for tourism. He even made quite the case for big businesses which are already seemingly already responsible. So perhaps that just leaves us then? The tourists And the travellers who descend on distant destinations every year, or month and weeks and days of each year.
The media doesn't depict us in a particularly bright light, in 2015 alone we saw toxurists killing lions and stripping off in sacred places. A bucket list of places to get naked seemed to quickly appear and among them were sites in Malaysia, Cambodia and Peru, there is even a website Naked at Monuments. The producers of this website do give their raison d'etre, but it is far less sophisticated than any ideological belief, in fact they state:
"We get naked around the world. Pretty self explanatory really..."Surely the producers of these sorts of websites should also be responsible, not just to the affected destinations, but also to the tourists facing legal issues.
Nudity is just one example (perhaps a more visible one) of tourist behaviour visible across the globe. I remember when I lived near Salou, on the Costa Daurada, Spain, the locals were in a way forced to put up with thousands of students descending on the area as part of Salou fest. I say forced here, because the tourist pound became sovereign in the area and locals could not afford to turn it down, so they felt they had to let the young Brits do whatever they like. Consequently April 2015 saw the local authorities withdraw their support for the event.
Yet, can we really be blamed? Growing up we were told that going on holiday was a right, we saved up all year for a week in the sun so that we could do those things we couldn't do at home.
And, why would anybody want to do the things you can't do at home? Is it because we are shrouded in British conservatism, or because in a way we are told we should? Walking around a large book shop in central London, I found myself in the travel section and immediately I am confronted with a book telling me there are 101 places I should get drunk in before I die.
This book adds to a long stream of media that ultimately sells destinations as places far from home, where anything goes. Ibiza Uncovered, Reps Uncovered, Is Harry on the Boat are just a few TV shows I can recall growing up. So I suppose it is quite difficult taking in responsibility when a lot of what we have been taught about being and becoming a tourist is the exact opposite. It seems there is a missing link in responsible tourism.
A code of ethics is available from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation "The Responsible Tourist and Traveller". Tourism Concern also has a complete ethical tourism guide allowing you to search countries and learn more about ethical issues in the place you are visiting.