What is responsible tourism

       Certainly to get holidays in countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand or any other country in the world, is a right for any citizen. At the same time, international tourism means the movement of meaningful incomes for impoverished communities that would not get much from their traditional way of living. But tourism to poor countries means also many difficult situations.

Stacey Dooley from BBC did this interesting documentary on what is behind the booming Thai tourism. Many things apply to Cambodia as well, with the difference that Cambodia is at the beginning and things can be done to prevent the destruction of fragile local communities, environment and abuse.

I would number those “difficult situations” like this:

  1. The great income that derives from international tourism in a country like Cambodia or Thailand, does not necessary reach the local population in the way any simple observer could believe. Rather the income is monopolized by huge economical groups of these countries, where local population plays a role of servers. It is possible to observer too that the government provides privileges to these powerful economical groups rather than involving the local population in a common gain that could be transfer in development. Towns, villages, tribe groups, islanders, all these groups are absorbed as servers into the tourist industry, getting always very low incomes and cutting their access to their own land.
  2. The involvement of local population as just servers to the big tourist industry means that local people will join not only in jobs relates with restaurants and hotels, but also with more humiliating positions such as prostitution or drug providers. In the so call “tourist areas”, local people do not have access to a strong educative support and they don’t see other options for survival as to join the tourist industry as servers in any possible position.

The improving of these situations can come from two parts only:

  1. A social compromise of the governments of poor countries to develop such tourist industry with the local populations, putting them as the real owners of the land, the business and the benefits that derives from tourism. If there is a community of islanders and a purpose to make the island as a tourist spot, we have to assume that the islanders are the real owners and that they must be involved  in such a process and that they must be assured to get a sustainable development and empowerment of their communities. The attitude of buying from them, spelling them from their land and building “alien” facilities, it’s absurd. In the case of a decline of the tourist industry – it is likely possible… global crisis, change of tourist tendencies – the so call “tourist spot” could come into decay – nobody came back – the economical groups, alien to the region at all, will abandon the place and it will be a great lost in any sense. In the case that a community is involved and it became sustainable, prepared in economical diversity, any tourism decay would not create a negative impact in the region, because the community was prepared for the best and for the worst. Let us start from this principle: the country belongs to its citizens.
  2. A responsible tourism must grow around the world. It is true that everybody has the right to their holidays. But it is also right that we can enjoy a place that is used in the right way. How could we enjoy a hotel that was built on the blood of a native community and think it is “their problem”? I would use a hotel that is evidently respectful with human rights, ecology and locals.

I think it is easy to go now through the Internet and check how hotels, restaurants and tourist facilities are effecting both the environment and the locals. There are thousands of hotels, tourist agencies, etc, that care for the country and its people, so we can make a more responsible election at the moment to make a reservation. It is also evident the name of economical groups that have imposed their heavy economical ambition on vulnerable communities or explode their employees.

Next time, give a better tip to that girl or boy who clean your so nice hotel room, while they have to sleep in a slam.

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About Albeiro Rodas

Albeiro Rodas (in Cambodia Sky Ly Samnang), is a MA in Digital Communication, independent journalist and a Salesian of Don Bosco from Amalfi, Colombia, based in Cambodia since 1999. He is the creator of the Don Bosco schools of journalism in Sihanoukville and Kep with young people from poor communities and the founder of the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund. Medal for Social Commitment UPB (2010); among the 100 more upstanding Colombians abroad (Marca Colombia, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X39xwdGtVXI) and among the 12 Colombians that are making this a better world 2013 (http://www.colombia.co/en/culture/colombians-that-are-making-this-a-better-world.html).

One response to “What is responsible tourism”

  1. Catherine Gimbel says :

    Hi, all the time i used to check webpage posts here in the early hours in the morning,

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