3 Ways to Promote Responsible Tourism

Travel allows us to leave our responsibilities at home and introduce ourselves to different places, cultures and experiences that can enrich our lives. With the world’s increasing population and growing interest in travel, not only is it becoming more difficult to escape the masses for travelers, but locals are watching the original charm of their communities, which brought visitors there in the first place, disappear. Local communities are being overpowered by an abundance of visitors.

This problem, known as overtourism, is affecting destinations around the world. The solution? Responsible tourism, an approach to travel that requires a team effort by travelers, locals and businesses alike to preserve popular vacation spots.

Before we discuss marketing’s role in responsible tourism, I want to provide a little clarity on our topic. What is responsible tourism? How is it different from sustainable tourism? 

What’s the Difference Between Responsible Tourism and Sustainable Tourism?

Sustainable tourism arose from the ecotourism movement to promote travel that made little-to-no impact on the environment. It gave rise to taglines like “Leave only footprints. Take only photos,” and strove to address issues like pollution and littering. But how “sustainable” can travel brands really be? The reality is that there is nothing truly sustainable when it comes to tourism thanks to the sheer number of people that visit. So, the language we use needed an update.

These days, responsible tourism is the practice of getting tourists to be socially, economically and environmentally responsible wherever they are, so they can be a positive force in their favorite destinations instead of a negative one.  It’s focused on how individuals—visitors, locals and businesses—interact with a destination. For this to happen, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO), agencies, businesses, locals and travelers alike all have to do their part. 

When it comes to responsible tourism marketing, here are some key things we should all be considering.

Educate Travelers on What it Means to be a Responsible Tourist

People love to travel. Anything to rack up likes on Instagram and gather unique stories to share, right?  Millennials, the largest age group in the U.S. population, are traveling the most with 40 percent expected to travel with friends in 2019, according to a 2018 Resonance report. They are also “the most likely group to seek out responsible products whenever possible,” according to a 2017 Cone Communications report on corporate social responsibility. They want to be responsible consumers, and there’s an opportunity to carry that trend into travel plans.

Kind Traveler was co-founded by CEO Jessica Blotter as “the first socially conscious ‘Give + Get’ hotel booking platform to empower travelers to become a force for good,” and uses its platform to educate travelers how they can be a responsible tourist the next time they travel.  

“There are many travel companies and nonprofits doing impactful work to promote responsible tourism,” Jessica told Noble. “Both CREST (Center for Responsible Travel) and Impact Travel Alliance (ITA) produce regular research studies that uncover the needs and trends in the industry when it comes to responsible tourism – but also roadmaps for how businesses can help mainstream sustainable tourism.” 

When marketing a destination, we can promote activities and attractions off the beaten path to disperse the crowds and masses. We can provide incentives for visitors to give back to the local community through “voluntourism.” For example, a local watersports rental business could provide a discount for those that attend their beach cleanup events.

Over in South Lake Tahoe, groups like TakeCare and the Tahoe Fund are already offering opportunities for travelers to take part in “voluntourism” efforts to keep Tahoe clean and the local community pleased with who’s visiting the place they call home. 

“We are seeing a movement where destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are also looking to lead sustainable travel initiatives within their destination,” said Jessica. “Recently, Kind Traveler created a two-year partnership with Sonoma County Tourism, poised to be America’s first 100% certified sustainable winemaking region in the U.S. by the end of 2019.”

Appeal to the Right Audiences

If your target audience is “responsible tourists,” then your marketing materials need to appeal to those people. For example, if you depict families hiking and couples paddleboarding, you’ll attract outdoor enthusiasts. If you depict travelers mountain biking, skiing or offroading, you’ll attract thrill-seekers. Staying mindful about your audience helps ensure you’re seeking out travelers who are ideal for your destination. 

Responsible tourism aims to attract people that respect the local culture and want to be a part of it—the types of people that want to leave a destination better than they found it. 

Responsible tourists interact and engage without bulldozing and overpowering. By selecting imagery, copy and even overall branding that appeals to these types of conscientious travelers, you can ensure you are bringing in more of the “right” types of tourists.

Bring Adventure Back To Traveling 

Some secrets are definitely worth keeping. As marketers, we need to be more strategic in what we share about destinations like Lake Tahoe. Hidden gems—happy hours, fly fishing spots, unique hikes—should stay hidden, only to be found by responsible tourists willing to talk to locals who can share their secret knowledge. For example, we can (and should) limit the number of click-bait articles revealing secret spots at popular destinations. Instead, we should encourage tourists to have conversations with locals to get the inside scoop. 

This isn’t to say we should feel guilty for traveling and introducing ourselves to different cultures and communities around the world. It should provide insight on how we can all be more conscious travelers and marketers and help us understand what our actions mean for the destinations so many others call home. Noble Studios is committed to working with DMOs to promote everything they have to offer travelers while educating the world on our responsibility to preserve our favorite vacation spots. 

Interested in our travel and tourism marketing services? Let’s chat

Cover Photo by Noble Studios CEO Jarrod Lopiccolo