Tourism, which accounted for nearly 10 percent of the global gross domestic product in 2014, is one of the biggest drivers of economic opportunity around the world and shows no signs of stopping. Indeed, experts expect that by 2025, more than 350 million people will be employed in the $11 trillion tourism industry. These expectations, however good they may be for those interested in a robust vacation market, have caused many sustainability experts and social justice advocates to question our current vacation habits. Indeed, given the rising levels of global inequality, especially in the impoverished communities adjacent to tourism hot spots, many are calling for a new model of socially responsible travel.
The experts are not alone. According to a variety of industry groups, more vacationers every year are expressing a desire to travel in ways that protect the physical and social environment of tourist destinations while enriching local populations. For businesses, this has resulted in a boon in companies seeking to cater to socially conscious tourists looking for ecologically and sociologically friendly vacation ideas. However, consumers are often left wondering how to adjust their conscience with a dizzying array of vacation opportunities.
In most circumstances, socially responsible tourism requires a fair bit of pre-trip research. A focus on locally owned hotels, businesses, and services that pay their employees fair wages will help to ensure that money remains in the hands of those living in tourist destinations. The socially responsible vacationer will also seek out opportunities to give back to the communities they visit while focusing their attention on sustainability and reducing their environmental impact. Finally, social responsibility requires a keen understanding and awareness of local cultures. Ideally, one will learn about a culture and engage in valuable cross-cultural exchanges.
To learn more, visit the Center for Responsible Travel at www.responsibletravel.org