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A Brief Guide to Responsible Tourism

A new year is a chance for new trends to surface. To start 2019, we want to delve into alternative ways of experiencing the world that are currently gaining speed in the community. We will be posting about 5 types of tourism that differ from the more traditional reasons to travel. If any of the blogs in this series inspires you to take your tour website more seriously, then please feel free to contact the team(opens in a new tab) at Tourism Tiger.

To kick off this series, I will be discussing responsible tourism — a topic that is near and dear to my heart and that I hope continues to gain momentum. The term responsible tourism itself seems to be quite self-explanatory: tourism that looks to preserve what is being visited — but it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Sustaining Tourism(opens in a new tab) compares responsible tourism to sustainable tourism, yet asserts that since “the word sustainability is often overused and not understood, responsible tourism has been adopted as a term used by [the] industry.” In general, tourism practices that implement one or more of the following can be considered responsible tourism:

  • Minimize negative social, economic, and environmental impacts
  • Generate greater economic benefits for local people and enhance the well-being of host communities
  • Improve working conditions and access to the industry
  • Involve local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances
  • Make positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, embracing diversity
  • Provide more enjoyable experiences for tourists through meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local cultural, social, and environmental issues
  • Provide access for physically challenged people
  • Be culturally sensitive, encourage respect between tourists and hosts, and build local pride and confidence

Efforts to be more responsible in the tourism industry are cropping up all over. Tourism, as an ever-growing industry, calls for innovation, not only for the sake of unique experiences but also to combat overtourism. A classic case of supply and demand, decisions to go green are happening as a result of the consumer’s desires. As Poppy Johnston from The Fifth Estate(opens in a new tab) writes, “the unthinking tourist might be a thing of the past if people […] continue to drive change.” Today, travelers are much more socially and environmentally aware than in the past and have begun to more deeply consider the effects that tourism has on the environment, culture, and economy of today’s societies.


Truly, creativity is a tour operator’s best friend. It’s up to you to decide how above and beyond you want to go and what sort of business you have.

You can offer tours that are designed responsibly from the get-go, like this tour through the Norwegian arctic(opens in a new tab), a food tour in Lima(opens in a new tab), a shepherding tour in the Himalayas(opens in a new tab), or a black history tour in Nashville(opens in a new tab). Tours like these were conceived with the goal of celebrating natural landscapes as well as the cultural customs and history of the locals. This comes with the underlying assumption that your business is based on ecotourism principles from the start, according to Johnston. She writes, “these businesses have long-term visions and embed themselves into the community and the region.” We’ve discussed ecotourism on the blog before, so feel free to check out our articles The Steady Rise of Ecotourism(opens in a new tab) and Applying the Principles of Ecotourism in Coastal Environments(opens in a new tab).

Another idea is to rethink pre-existing infrastructure. Take the 90-year-old Spanish hotel chain owned by the state, for example. The first of the year marked their official shift to using only green energy sources(opens in a new tab) like solar and thermal, allowing them to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Whether it’s considering a change in your energy sources or simply finding alternatives to plastic straws and Styrofoam cups, you can start reducing your impact on the planet this year. Besides, odds are your clientele will demand this from you in the near future.

There are numerous ideas out there to begin shifting your tourism company to something more responsible. That being said, discussing responsible tourism and marketing your tour business as ‘responsible’ to your target audience is another ball game. Language when encouraging responsible tourism practices must be treated with particular care. Jeremy Smith at WTM(opens in a new tab) asserts that using positive language — “better places to live and better places to visit” — is far more effective than putting a negative spin on the same idea — “stop taking holidays that make the world worse.” People are more likely to respond to proud feelings as a result of traveling responsibly rather than guilty feelings about being destructive. Our goal is to encourage tourists to enjoy and advocate for more responsible tourism practices.


Look at ways you can involve your community. Hire locals to work as tour guides or assistants, invite locals to share a bit of their heritage with your guests. Support local establishments by recommending them.

Implement a no-trace program. Restrict what guests are allowed to bring on tours; be adamant that they stay on marked trails; recycle everything that you can, and start a compost pile.

Be transparent with your tour company’s values. Talk to your guests about what you stand for. Give your guests a detailed account of where their money goes.

To read more about responsible tourism, please reference the articles linked in this article. If you’d like help with your tour website, it may be better to get directly in touch with the main Tourism Tiger team via the contact page(opens in a new tab).

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