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Responsible tourism: Bangladesh perspective

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Kanij Fatima :
Thirty or more years ago a movement started amongst wildlife tourism businesses to ensure that tourism and tourists weren’t destroying the wildlife that visitors came to see. They called it ‘Ecotourism,’ and its mantra was ‘Take only photographs leave only footprints.’
Welcome as this agenda was, it had three major flaws: it focused only on nature based tourism; it failed to acknowledge that the local community must also benefit from tourism; and finally, that without any requirement for evidence of real achievement it could be exploited by ‘green washers’ keen to jump on the ecotourism bandwagon.
Then we entered the era of ‘Responsible Tourism,’ encompassing all sorts of tourism and emphasizing firstly on creating better places for local people, and secondly for tourists. Presently, it has become an established area of tourism research and practice and is typically understood as a broad set of tourist interactions that engage with and benefit local communities and minimize negative social and environmental impacts. Promoting responsible tourism, which respects the environment and supports the wealth of local communities, is a crucial issue for the evolution of modern tourism. This implies a responsible behavior both by tourists and by tourism businesses involved in travel production and distribution.
Responsible Tourism and Cape Town Declaration 2002
According to Prof Dr Harold Goodwin, Director of the Responsible Tourism Partnership -
"Responsible Tourism is about taking responsibility, responding, taking action to address the social, economic and environmental issues of sustainability that arise in destinations. It is about doing something about it. It is about, making a difference."
In short, Responsible Tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” It requires that operators, hoteliers, governments, local people and tourists take responsibility and action to make tourism more sustainable. It is an approach to the management of tourism, aimed at maximizing economic, social and environmental benefits and minimizing costs to local communities and destinations.
Responsible Tourism was defined in Cape Town in 2002 alongside the World Summit on Sustainable Development. 280 representatives from all sectors of tourism from 20 countries attended the Cape Town Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations. A declaration on the concept was agreed. This definition, the Cape Town Declaration is now widely accepted and has been adopted by the World Travel Market in 2007 for World Responsible Tourism Day.
The Cape Town Declaration recognizes that Responsible Tourism takes a variety of forms, it is characterized by travel and tourism which:
- Minimizes negative economic, environmental and social impacts
- Generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry
- Involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life changes
- Makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world's diversity
- Provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues
- Provide access for people with disabilities and the disadvantaged
 - Remains culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence
It was also mentioned that the behavior of people and tourists can be more or less responsible and what is responsible in a particular place depends upon environment and culture. However, Responsible Tourism is not the same thing as sustainable tourism. Sustainability is the goal, a goal which can only be achieved by people taking responsibility, together with others, to achieve it. Responsible Tourism is about taking responsibility for making tourism sustainable, it is about what people do to address the many specific challenges we face.
Bangladesh and Responsible Tourism
Bangladesh is a country well known for its lavish hospitality. Its visitor-friendly traditions, varied life styles, cultural and natural heritage, and colorful fairs vales could be major tourist attractions. Tourism is one of the most rapidly developing industries in Bangladesh. However, it is also a source of increasing stress on the country’s fragile ecosystems. The social, economic and environmental impacts of tourism are massive and often very complex. Illustration can be drawn from the scenario of St Martin’s Island where rush of tourists and indiscriminate anchoring of boats have been damaging the coral reefs, causing underwater pollution and changing the sediment dynamics of this popular travel destination.
Development of responsible and sustainable tourism can help reduce the pace of natural resources degradation and extinction of species due to the changing climate in this country. As far as Bangladesh and the concept of responsible tourism goes, some projects have been going on under the criteria of utmost significance. However, these projects still remain under the radar and few in number despite being of paramount importance to our climate. Very few ecologically smart business initiatives have been considered to approach overall conservation effort. Here, smart being those initiatives that directly impact the tourists, local people, and the authority altogether on this issue of taking responsibility of environment, society, and economy. In short, there's no specific public agenda (set of regulations), promotional or social activity regarding this concept.
TripZip: an approach towards responsible tourism
TripZip is a social enterprise born with the single mission for making the fun and soul refreshing activities of traveling in Bangladesh easily accessible to the youth, with special focus on minority and disadvantaged groups. It is a platform where people share their experiences of their visit to tourist destinations and explore more through TripZip’s occasional tours within the country. TripZip has organized an online campaign jointly with Bangladesh Tourism Board for developing tourists’ behavior among the youth and young tourists of Bangladesh through ‘Do Not Do Campaign’ on protecting environment especially in tourist attractive areas. A 15-day long campaign involved six themes which encompassed A to Z of all dos and don'ts of traveling. A focus group discussion was also arranged on inspiring responsible tourism with the presence of policy makers of tourism industry, stake holders of the industry, young travelers, business persons of tourism industry and media persons. Such an initiative was one of the firsts in bolstering tourism sector by focusing on its sustainability in future. TripZip is committed to continue this sort of initiatives in near future.
Since tourism is a multi-dimensional activity, it is necessary that all the stakeholders become active partners in the endeavor to promote responsible tourism if Bangladesh is to become a sustainable world player in the tourism industry.
(Writer is founder of TripZip)

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