Febraury 2010: Ethical tourism

Febraury 2010: Ethical tourism

Situations can affect our behaviour more than we ordinarily think. Given a change of circumstances, a generally good person can find themselves acting quite out of character.

Tourists often behave in a more liberated and less restrained manner than in their home environment. Away from the roles that constrict them at home they have anonymity … and money to spend. No matter if, when they pack their bags, there’s no room for mores.

I read a travel blogger recently who said that, for local host communities, there is no difference between a traveller and a tourist. Would they notice a difference if the traveller was a pilgrim? Or at least someone who travelled with ethics in their carry-on?

The attitude, behaviour, use of resources of tourists and how and where they spend their money have an impact on local communities. By seeking to make this impact positive, by taking time for human encounters and by making sure that their contributions reach the local economy, tourists can opt for a tourism experience that is beneficial for both tourists and hosts.

Responsible and just forms of tourism offer communities opportunities to share their cultures, tell their stories, request solidarity and foster tolerance and greater understanding.

This month Kim Cain tells of a Palestinian code that supports the development of a just and responsible tourism. In general it calls on tourists to:

* travel with an inclusive, comprehensive and open-minded attitude;

* be open to political, historical, economic and cultural issues; and

* be inspired by the tourism experience to promote peace and mobilise against injustice.

And, it recommends, be inspired by the pilgrim’s journey. Take your time to live and experience the daily life of the local people. Keep the people in your thoughts, pray for them and act when your actions are needed.

A Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco once used the vision of the pilgrim as an analogy for the lives awaiting graduating students: For the pilgrim the road is not just a means toward an end. The road itself is sacred, holy; it is a gift from God and it leads to God. If we reverence the world as we pass through it, we are less likely to trash it, abuse it and spoil it for those who come after us.

Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding, says the ethical traveller should spend money at a local level, cut out the middleman, cut out the international franchise resort hotels and chain-restaurants, patronise the mum-and-dad economy, go slow, respect people, practise humility and don’t condescend with your good intentions, make friends, ask questions, listen, know that you are visitor, keep promises, be a personal ambassador of your home culture, and take your new perspectives home so that you can share them with your neighbours.

Or, in the words of the Archbishop of San Francisco , Vayan con Dios — Go with God!

Stephen Webb

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