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Responsible travel. Fad, fiction or the future?

Responsible travel. Fad, fiction or the future?

Following my last blog post, Are you a traveller or a tourist? in today’s post, I’m taking a closer look at responsible travel and asking, is it fad, fiction or the future?

This year is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. So, what better time to discuss the topic. I am often befuddled by the myriad of terminology used to describe what is essentially travel that benefits the destination. The terms range from ecotourism, ethical tourism and geotourism to pro-poor tourism, responsible tourism and sustainable tourism. At b í k u, we’re not so concerned about the definition 😉– as long as we make a change, no matter how small, that benefits the local place, people and nature.

For those of you who do want to know the nuances of the different definitions, you can find them in the Center for Responsible Travel’s (CREST) report, ‘The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2016.’

Neither fact nor fiction

Eco tourism is increasingly moving in to the mainstream, and has done so more rapidly in the last 2 – 3 years than probably in the past decade as a whole. Eco tourism used to be seen as the preserve of the eco warriors of the world – the stereotypical ‘tree huggers’, as they were deemed by the press. But now, responsible travel (however you want to describe it) is much more accessible to us all and is increasingly important to the traveller – and tourist! I recently read an article by Sarah Reid – an author for Lonely Planet – titled, ‘Sustainable travel: making the right choices.’ In the article Reid gives some tips to help the individual traveller make these ‘right choices’. She also references a number of hotels and tours that are making travellers’ decisions a whole lot easier.

Information in the above image is from CREST’s 2016 report, ‘The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2016’

Who’s getting it right?

Responsible travel is not only good for the environment and the communities, it’s also good for business. With this in mind, more and more hotels are implementing these ‘good practices’ as part of their business model. A recent BBC documentary that Ariel and I have been watching – ‘Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby’ – showcases two hotels, in particular, that are truly inspiring, Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador and Sasaab Lodge in Kenya.

A former mayor of Quito, Roque Sevilla, is the visionary behind Mashpi Lodge. He epitomises Einstein’s quote that, ‘Only those who can see the invisible can do the impossible’! Sevilla rescued 3,200 acres of cloud forest from a logging company to build this tropical paradise where nature meets luxury. Sevilla works with a resident biologist and a team of naturalists and scientists. In doing so, Mashpi has beome more than a retreat; it’s a true sustainability success story.

Sasaab Lodge breaks new ground in the way it works together with the Samburu people, who own the land on which the lodge sits. Rather than buying the land from the people – although I don’t know if that was ever a possibility / option – the lodge pays the Samburu people (their landlords) a fee for every guest that stays. A large percentage of the employees are also Samburu.

What’s the future?

Responsible tourism is no fad, it is no fiction, but is it the future? The idea of conserving, maintaining and preserving is present in all of the definitions of responsible travel. Can we go beyond that? Last week I read an interesting Instagram post by @onthepurplepath that talked about going beyond sustainable towards regenerative practices. Is it time for regenerative tourism – and what would that look like? Perhaps regenerative travel is the future …

Let us know your thoughts and comments, email us – ariel.stephenson@bikupanama.com or zabrina.shield@bikupanama.com, or post them on Instagram using #bikupanama #bikutreehouse #regenerativetravel

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