Responsible tourism in the same sentence as urban environment sounds like a contradiction. You rarely hear responsible or sustainable and eco tourism intertwined with an urban environment because they are not commonly associated with each other like in the rural or wilderness environment.
The urban environment is much different than its rural neighbours and thus, the practice of responsible tourism takes on a different scope.
The practice of responsible tourism does not define its place in tourism. Responsible tourism is the practice of being responsible of your actions that benefits the environment, community and all others in the broader context. The tag line of “Better places to live – Better places to visit means just that. Yes, it does put tourism secondary to life’s necessities but really, what takes priority over yours or someone else’s life? Tourism can be used as a vehicle or tool to development. Why is it that we don’t see it here or regard it as a serious industry? It is the largest industry in the world, so why don’t we start taking it seriously?
The practice of responsible tourism for small business will add meaning to your vision while potentially doing something great for your community that adds to its services and aids in its development goals. The recently released Green Economy Report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) noted that enhancing a city’s public services improves the quality of life of its residents. How can a tourism business help with this cause?
5. Measures to green cities can increase social equity and quality of life.
Enhancing public transport systems, for example, can reduce inequality by improving access to public services and other amenities, and by helping to relieve vehicle congestion in poorer neighbourhoods. Cleaner fuel for transport and power generation can reduce both local pollution and health inequality. Reducing traffic and improving conditions for pedestrians and cyclists can help foster community cohesion, an important aspect of quality of life. Children who live close to green space are more resistant to stress; have lower incidence of behavioural disorders, anxiety, and depression; and have a higher measure of self-worth. Green space also stimulates social interaction between children.
Green Economy Report – Cities p.455
Four years ago Hostelling International (HI) moved into a new location in downtown Winnipeg and since then, they have been a blue print for positive local community development using tourism as a focus. The HI–Winnipeg is a great example of a business integrating systems and approaches that are geared towards supporting the community that surrounds it. Gone are the VLT’s, gone is the vendor, gone are the vices that damage souls and accommodate abuse. If only the walls of the building could talk…
At the operational level, HI-Winnipeg needed to be a part of the community in order to operate in its location. The hostel is located in the downtown core of the city commonly and numerically associated with crime and negative perceptions. As a business in this neighbourhood, the HI-Winnipeg had to change the perception and reinvent the image of the area for guests and the neighbourhood. It had to become more of a community organization while still operating as a tourism business. Although, there are ongoing issues that humble the business, the reality of it is, the community is starting to see positive transformation around it. Decisions that are made that impact the business will in some cases impact the community. It’s a matter of figuring out how to involve the community and activate a connection between the physical form (the hostel) and connecting it with a positive vision for the community.
The social implications of traditional urban development
Patterns of urbanisation in many areas also raise important social challenges. The traditional business as-usual (BAU) model of urban development – typical of many rapidly urbanising areas – is characterised by uncontrolled horizontal expansion leading on one hand to urban sprawl of affluent populations with lower development densities and increased dependency on the private car and on the other hand to the peripheralisation of the urban poor, decreasing their access to the city and its workplaces, services and infrastructure. Typical developments further include the emergence of socially divisive neighbourhoods in the form of gated communities, shopping centres and business districts and, a significant increase in the level of informal development with large swathes of slum housing with no access to basic services, infrastructure and sanitation. At a general level, the rapid growth of many cities coupled with insufficient resources and poor management compromises fresh water and electricity supply, waste treatment, transport, and other infrastructure provision, affecting the urban poor most.
Green Economy Report – Cities p.459