Responsible Tourism

in Australia

Responsible Tourism in Australia


Most of us realise that tourism can never be sustainable considering the vast amount of fuel, carbon and resources involved in travel – both domestic and international. However, the fact is that people are just not going to stop travelling. And numbers continue to grow.

There are very few places in the world that have escaped the exponential growth of the tourism industry.  This has usually come at the expense of natural resources, local economies and local communities. Many tourists have been unaware of the negative effects that their actions may cause.

However as the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many of us to reconsider our priorities, travellers have begun to see and realize the negative impacts of tourism and the way in which the actions of one country can impact on others. Many travellers are beginning to search for more responsible holiday options. These include various forms of alternative tourism such as nature-based tourism, ecotourism and sustainable tourism.

So what to do?

Here at Green Getaways we believe that we can at least start to try to lessen the environmental impact of millions of people travelling throughout Australia and the world. While we may not be perfect, we believe that unless accommodation providers are supported and promoted for the environmental initiatives which they do put in place, they may ask themselves: why bother?

The environmental policies put into place by green hotels such as the Ovolo Nishi in the ACT and the Alto Hotel on Bourke in Melbourne, and the extraordinary work being done by smaller operators seen on their site, should be applauded and supported by every traveller who cares about the future of tourism and the health of the planet.

Sustainable tourism is defined as “tourism that respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment” (UNESCO – UNEP International Environmental Education Programme) Sustainable tourism aims to minimise the negative impacts of tourism, whilst maximising the positive impacts and seeks to take care of the environment, society and economy.

Tourism can never be truly sustainable;  the aim of responsible tourism is to lessen its impact.

The importance of responsible tourism cannot be underestimated. It is vital that we continue to work towards a positive overall balance in environmental, experiential, socio-cultural and economic impacts. Experiential impact describes the effect of visitors on each other, while socio-cultural impact refers to the effect of visitors on local residents.

Nowhere is this clash of the local people against tourists more evident than in the current situation facing Venice and Barcelona, where many locals feel that they can no longer live in their own cities due to the impact of tourism.

Similarly a story featured on SBS’s Dateline program outlines the impact of cruise ships on the local islanders in beautiful Vanuatu, an idyllic and unspoilt paradise in the South Pacific. The cruise ships visiting Vanuatu should have brought prosperity to islanders, but they’re actually seeing very little benefit.

Any destination will most likely be harmed by tourism if not managed effectively. If areas are damaged or destroyed, they will not be available to future generations.

Tourists themselves need to be responsible for how they act and behave and to be part of the process of thinking about  the impact of their holidays and the choice of where they stay and how they travel.

Responsible Tourism

  • Ensures that tourism does not exploit the natural environment or local communities.
  • Consults with local communities on planned developments.
  • Develops infrastructure that improves and benefits the lives of local people and not just tourists.

Travel Enjoy Respect


from the 2017 United Nations Year of Sustainable Development


The three terms which are often heard in relation to tourism and the environment are: ecotourism, responsible tourism and sustainable tourism.

The definition which chimes with us here at Green Getaways is from Harold Goodwin:  Responsible Tourism is about taking responsibility for making tourism sustainable, it is about what people do to address the many specific challenges we face….

He also writes that:  “Responsible Tourism is not the same thing as sustainable tourism. Sustainability is the goal, a goal which can only be achieved by people taking responsibility, together with others, to achieve it.”

Other Definitions

A simple definition of ecotourism is “travel to enjoy the world’s amazing diversity of natural life and human culture without causing damage to either.” Tikell (1994).

“Nature-based tourism that involves education and interpretation of the natural environment and is managed to be ecologically sustainable.” It recognizes that natural environment includes cultural components, and that ecologically sustainable involves an appropriate return to the local community and long- term conservation of the resource.” The Australian Department of Tourism (1994)

“Travel to remote or natural areas which aims to enhance understanding and appreciation of natural environment and cultural heritage, avoiding damage or deterioration of the environment and the experience for others”. Figgis (1993)

“Responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people.” The Ecotourism Society 1991

“Ecologically sustainable tourism in natural areas that interprets local environment and cultures, furthers the tourists’ understanding of them, fosters conservation and adds to the well-being of the local people”. Richardson (1993)

“A responsible nature travel experience that contributes to the conservation of the ecosystem while respecting the integrity of host communities and where possible, ensuring that activities are complementary, or at least compatible, with existing resource-based uses present at the ecosystem.” Boyd and Butler (1993

Goodwin (1996) says that ecotourism is “low impact nature tourism which contributes to the maintenance of species and habitats either directly through a contribution to conservation and/or indirectly by providing revenue to the local community sufficient for local people, and therefore protect their wildlife heritage area as a source of income. According to UNESCO, ecotourism involves nature-based tourism where the goal of both tourists and the operators is the observation, appreciation and preservation of nature and traditional cultures.”