Talking Point: Educating guests = more sustainable tourism

Hoteliers can use their know how to educate guests on local issues.

Hoteliers can use their know how to educate guests on local issues.

Continuing our Talking Point theme of engaging guests on sustainability, Justin Francis, Managing Director of responsibletravel.com says hotels can help educate guests on local issues with multiple benefits for all.

At responsibletravel.com we believe that the most enriching, most memorable holidays are those that are rooted in authentic, local experiences; experiences which make visitors feel like they become part of place even for just a short period of time, rather than just tourists passing through.

Authentic travel touches the lives of local people, and immerses the traveller into the landscape and culture of their destination. However, with this closeness comes added responsibility; a new deal for hoteliers and visitors alike to ensure their visit is not detrimental to the communities and environments into which they are welcomed.

In order to do this it is important for everyone – including hoteliers - to be aware of the most pressing issues in their destination - whether environmental, social or economic - and understand what they can do to maximise the benefits their presence brings.

Many hotels are already working with local community members, recycling, supporting environmental conservation efforts, buying and serving local produce, harvesting rainwater, running professional training schemes and all manner of efforts which aim to bring economic and environmental benefits to their local area. But to have a real positive impact they also need to be educating and encouraging their guests to subscribe to the mindset of responsible, authentic tourism.

Responsibletravel.com aims to support this work and one way we can do that is with our 2 minute travel guides which offer a bite-sized overview of key responsible tourism issues, coupled with expert tips and advice which hoteliers can share to help educate and inspire their guests.

For example, the guide to Borneo highlights how responsible, sustainably-run tourism could play a key role in preserving some of the world’s most threatened forests, and saving some of its most unique wildlife from extinction. While visitors may be shocked by the vast swathes of palm oil plantations cutting into the jungle, they may not know that visiting community-run longhouses, taking walking tours guided by local people and supporting National Parks can all give a vital, economic value to preserving the forest.

Hoteliers can explain to their guests how supporting community tourism projects can empower the traditional guardians of the forest to stand up to evictions. The guide highlights a local Dayak tribe, near Batang Ai, Sarawak, who were able to resist being evicted from their forest home by establishing themselves as a money-making tourist centre.

Visitors who care about and want to support the environments and communities they visit, coupled with responsible hoteliers who want to educate and share the passion they have for their destination is a powerful combination for positive change.

As well as covering the big issues in each destination, the guides also offer practical, everyday tips for responsible tourism, as well as insider advice on how to discover the hidden local corners.

Hoteliers looking to give their guests a more authentic experience can add their own advice, or simply share the tips included in the guides to point their guests in the right direction. The Costa Rica guide for example, advises travellers to support women’s’ enterprises – food stalls, craft sellers and homestay owners – for whom tourism is one of very few economic alternatives. As a result hoteliers could point their guests in the direction of great local markets or raise the issue of fair haggling; the cost of living here is much higher than in other Latin American countries so tourists should be prepared to pay more for souvenirs and crafts.

If hoteliers can use their local experience and know-how to inspire conversation around responsible tourism with their guests, they will be reinforcing their efforts to protect and preserve their local cultures, communities and environments. And their guests will leave with much more enriched holiday memories, rooted in the landscapes and people with whom they stayed, making them more likely to recommend their stay to others. It’s a win for hotelier, guest and the local community and makes everyone feel good about sustainable tourism.

For more information: Responsibletravel.com now has 28 two minute travel guides, to a range of destinations and activities, from Orangutan Watching to Sea Kayaking, Ecuador to Snowdonia, and this is growing weekly. Discover them all at http://www.responsibletravel.com/copy/travel-guide-homepage.

You can read more of our stories on the net impact of tourism here on Green Hotelier.

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