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So what is responsible tourism and do the French care anyway???

February 15, 2011

Eco Gites

This week has been branded responsible tourism week and as such it is worth looking at what exactly does that mean as there is so much jargon around…

Responsible tourism is the application of the concept of Sustainable Development to the Tourism Industry. It fundamentally engenders a respect for local communities and destinations, a respect for the local people, their livelihoods & local economic development not forgetting the need to be environmentally friendly. More meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues are key in the process.

It is all too easy to knock cities like Paris for the lack of apparent welcome, all too apparent presence of dogs on the pavements, often offhand “service” in cafes and restaurants, not to mention the profusion of luxury brands which seem to ooze excess and seeming lack of awareness of conserving our planet’s future.

However, for sheer natural beauty and cultural heritage then France is in the premier league of worldwide tourist destinations. There is really so much to see and do that they cannot help but ensure the preservation of their future touristic potential. Every region has something worthwhile experiencing and each year there are legions of happy people keen to lap up the richness on offer whether it be getting out in the fresh air of  the mountains, chilling in the country, being cultural in the cities or eating and drinking just about everywhere…

To support of all of this, the government  has defined a national Environmental strategy “Le Grenelle de l’Environnement”, so the infrastructure is there!

Paris is also where UNESCO is head-quartered: There are 35 World Heritage Sites in France (31 cultural, 4 natural) the last 2 being added in 2010.
France has the 4th country rank in number of sites. See this video for a tour of them, not forgetting the overseas territories. Well worth waiting to see the Pitons on Reunion island – wow!

Growing numbers of hoteliers and tour operators are “getting” the message and taking steps in the right direction. Today over 750 individual, and mostly independent, accommodations of all types have obtained a recognised,  environmental label (see my earlier post on one of these). Associations grouping tour operators passionate to promote such tourism at home and abroad exist such as ATR (= Act for Responsible Tourism) or ATES (=Association for Solidarity and Fairtrade in Tourism). These associations generally also support social & economic projects as well as environmental ones.




So can tourism really have a positive impact on people’s lives AND on the planet?

More and more, environmental and humanitarian projects are learning how to harness tourism dollars to make a difference. Dignified livelihoods are being created in the field of tourism. In some places, ecosystems are better protected and researched. Traditional ways of life are being promoted at least in an educational way.

What do you think??


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