Thursday, 13 November 2008

Responsible Tourism Day

Wednesday marked Responsible Tourism Day at the World Travel Market at Excel, just in case you missed it.

This massive orgy of international tourism is divided into regions of the world, where irritated travel executives bump together while shouting into their mobile phones, trying desperately to locate each other, in the over-heated crowds.

“For God’s sake Barry, I was in Africa, having coffee, five minutes ago, but Sheila told me to go to Asia...” and “we’re meeting Maureen by Mexico when she’s been to the loo”.

There are thousands of pictures of palm trees and golden beaches on thousands of glossy brochures that no-one will bother reading because they all say much the same thing.

In a small lecture room, far away from the stampede, a presentation on responsible tourism introduces the industry to a new type of tourism offering “better places for people to live in and visit” with “local and authentic attractions” that provide an opportunity to “experience things rather than be a voyeur”.

Responsible Tourism is already a growing niche market that threatens to become main-stream as more consumers bore of the standard package holiday fare, prefer to organise their own leisure time and have concerns for their environment. But it seems that some travel companies are cashing in on the trend without necessarily producing the goods.

Dr Xavier Font says “those executives that talk about going to heaven all the time rarely get there and the same applies to responsible tourism. Those that talk about it all the time usually only see it as a press release opportunity”.

Then a nice man called Richard kindly talked us all through a programme called “biodiversity, my hotel in action” and everyone started to eye the exit signs longingly.

Back in the crush of the main exhibition hall, most of the travel executives were struggling to find Maureen, Mexico or the loo and had probably never even considered the possibility of reaching heaven.

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