Today marks the start of a new era for responsible tourism. Today at Responsible Travel we re-launch our website and go head to head with the mass tourism industry to excite holidaymakers about a type of tourism which brings people together in a fair and respectful way, a type of tourism which we believe has impacts not only in countering conflicts between tourists and local people in tourism, but also in wider society as a whole.
Whatever your views on the referendum, since the Brexit vote there has been an increased climate of fear in the UK. It seems that when faced with strangers - be these EU politicians, immigrants, voters with opposing views - the UK is getting very fearful. It leads me to ask - is our attitude to strangers changing in a healthy way?
How do we counter mistrust?
For those of us working in tourism our business is in bringing strangers together - but much like in our country, in our industry there are conflicts; in Venice local residents campaign against the unsustainable cultural and environmental impacts of large cruise ships and recently in Cyprus local residents have accused all-inclusives of destroying smaller businesses reliant on tourism.
What we see now is a debate between those of us who see an EU politician, immigrant, local person, tourist or someone different to us in a positive, tolerant way, versus those who react with more fear of the unknown. This debate looks set to continue for some time - and for the sake of our industry and for wider society, tourism with its inherent ability to bring people together must have a voice and play a role.
What excites me about responsible tourism is that it brings people together in a fair and respectful way. Through responsible tourism we have the power to create positive, optimistic opportunities to counter a growing climate of mistrust around the world.
The demand for responsible tourism is there
Over the last few years there has been a real shift in consumer interest towards brands with a clearer social purpose and we believe that tourism will be the next industry to follow this trend. We know the demand is there - since the start of 2015 Responsible Travel has grown 30% - the fastest we've growth we've seen in our 15 year history. We're not sharing this to boast; instead we hope to influence the rest of the tourism industry that a more caring form of tourism can be very commercially successful.
With the launch of our new-look website, the biggest overhaul in our history, we're upping our game to popularise responsible tourism, to excite people that all types of tourism, from niche to mainstream can be arranged in a more responsible way. We want responsible tourism to be widely accepted by the tourism industry, but this must be driven by holiday-makers themselves.
So why should they care? We believe that responsible tourism offers a real win-win experience. By treating local people and places fairly and with respect they are more likely to give us a chance to get closer to their culture, wildlife and landscapes. It leads to much more memorable, more authentic holiday experiences for us as tourists, while also ensuring local communities and conservation benefits from our visit.
So we are re-launching our site, www.responsibletravel.com, and renewing our efforts to popularise responsible tourism. We recognise the role tourism can play in fostering understanding between people of different cultures and backgrounds. We are upping our game and so too must everyone who believes in a tolerant world when every stranger is a potential friend and ally.