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A beginner’s guide to responsible tourism

At Coastal Guide, we are happy to bring you the first instalment of what we hope will become a regular feature, a monthly page on all issues related to responsible tourism. We plan to cover local initiatives and stories, as well as provide tips on what our readers can do to become more responsible tourists. And where better to start than

by introducing the topic?

Put simply, responsible tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” It is about increasing the benefits tourism can bring to a destination, whilst at the same time minimising the negative impacts that accompany tourism development. All types of tourism have the potential to be more responsible – from all-inclusive beach holidays, to nature retreats and city


In many countries, and especially in developing countries, tourism represents a vital source of income and is an important vehicle for local economic development. In Kenya for example, the total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was 9.8% in 2016, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

When managed properly, tourism is a catalyst for economic growth via local job creation, investment opportunities, improved infrastructure and local supply chain linkages. It can also increase the funds available for the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, and perhaps more importantly, provide a sound economic incentive for preserving stunning landscapes, wildlife, marine ecosystems and the like – which are often at the core of what a tourist destination has to offer. Tourism can even revitalise traditional cultures and inject a new sense of pride into local communities.

However, tourism can also have many negative impacts. These include the loss of natural habitats and increased pressure on natural resources, poorly paid and often seasonal jobs, a move away from traditional earnings in favour of the tourist dollar, more pressure on sometimes limited infrastructure and price increases/ land speculation which impact on local populations.

From these few examples, we can see that the impacts of tourism are often double-faceted. Proper planning by national and local governments and private sector businesses is essential to ensuring that the positive outweighs the negative – and community engagement is paramount to ensuring that the needs of local communities are also addressed.

Over the next issues of Coastal Guide, we will look in more detail at what various stakeholders can do to help make tourism more responsible – and in particular what role tourists themselves can play to help make holiday destinations better places to live and better places to visit.

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