The Responsible Tourist Part (1/4): Unpacking Responsible Tourism

It is January and the morning air is warm. You pull off the highway and your partner in the passenger seat is directing you coastward. The town is asleep, bar a few early rising locals that stare down the hired campervan as it rolls down the main street. The beach is close. You can hear it. You can smell it. A friend of yours who came here a few years before tipped you off with a little-known track that leads to a small bay.

“I’ve never seen sand so gold or water so clear!”, he said.

As you reach the hill, you see the pale horizon meet the deep blue, but when you look down onto the beach, the golden haven you craved so badly, you find anything but.

Empty cans, food scraps and cigarette butts are scattered around you and smouldering bon fires from the night before have infected the sand with charcoal.

Ahead is a narrow dirt path that leads directly to the beach. The track that has been eroded by foot traffic is littered with trash and is surrounded by crushed saplings. To the left a sign directs you towards a designated walking track: “Beach entrance 100m”.


So, which way are you going?

To take the unscrutinised and effortless shortcut that grants immediate results and avoids complications… Or decide to take the appropriate route, that may appear to be unnecessary and demanding.   


In a society that requires rapid results and applauds ease of use, it is almost impossible to pass up a shortcut. Speed up or be left behind, and definitely don’t look back… don’t think how this shortcut has been created… don’t examine the damaging effects on the environment and on the people, communities…  and certainly, do not empathise with these people… just keep moving forward and keep looking for new shortcuts.

Day-to-day, we face a crossroad that brings into question our responsibility, accountability and commitment. Although there is an undeniable movement prompting people to make more responsible and sustainable choices in their daily routines, more often than not, this trend ends when it comes time to take a holiday.

The Responsible Tourist series aims to educate and empower every kind of tourist, from backpackers to luxury travellers, by providing practical tools that actively minimise the negative social and environmental impacts of your trip. Think of it as a guide, directing you towards more enjoyable travel experiences through meaningful connections with host communities whilst building a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.

What is Responsible Tourism?

To be responsible suggests taking moral accountability and commitment for one’s actions and the impacts of those actions.

In terms of responsibility and tourism: John Lea’s (an Australian responsible tourism expert) idea of responsible travel is based on three key principles: “to understand the culture that you are visiting; to respect and be sensitive to the people who are hosting your visit; and to tread softly on the environment”. Ultimately creating better places for people to live and better places for travellers to visit.

It is important to understand that responsible tourism is not a form of tourism such as ecotourism or adventure tourism. Rather, it is an alternative pathway, ideology or approach to achieve sustainable development.


“When something is everyone’s responsibility it can end up being nobody’s”

– Charles Osgood


Although most of our holiday activities may seem harmless, in many cases the negative effects are not immediate and often go unseen. With over 1.3billion people travelling in 2018, these seemingly innocent actions can develop severe consequences.

Now more than ever, we must look back and examine the effects our actions are having on the communities and environments we are visiting.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Responsible Tourist Series, where we will look at ways to incorporate responsible choices when you’re in the planning stage of your next trip!

About the author

A recent graduate from the University of Queensland with a strong passion for Responsible & Ethical Tourism as well as Sustainable practices.Lover of the Ocean, Surfing, Travel and Road Trips.Always looking to grow through shared experiences and expand on knowledge, ideas and philosophies.

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