Since 2004 when responsibletravel.com launch Responsible Tourism Awards I have been privileged to chair the judges for the Awards presented at WTM in London on World Responsible Tourism Day each year and now African and Irish Awards, in December the Indian Responsible Tourism Awards will be presented for the first time and I have been invited to chair the judges. The family of Awards has grown as the idea of Responsible Tourism has gained momentum around the world. It is a privilege to chair the judging for a couple of reasons. First because of the opportunity it affords to review what those businesses and tourism organisations which are at the cutting edge of Responsible Tourism are achieving and to see the contributions being made by hundreds of individuals who have understood that tourism can be used to make better places for people to live in and that it makes good business sense. Looking back over the twelve years of the Awards it is surprising how rarely we have seen good examples of initiatives which have been supported by development agencies, charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). One of the reasons for this is that businesses understand the importance of the metrics each year we see lots of good examples of businesses which are able to provide us with data and other evidence of their positive impacts. The judges look for examples to show case through Awards – examples which will, we believe, inspire others to replicate and to do better; we look for the evidence.
Each year the standard of the Award winners rises, it is challenging to win an Award and the judges and organisers recognise that it takes time to complete our detailed questionnaires and to pull together the evidence we ask for. The judges are mindful of the effort required to do this each year – it is of course less effort if the evidence is regularly collected and reported. The next stage in the development of Responsible Tourism will see increased transparency and reporting on websites and through published reports, some are already doing this. It is through transparent reporting and accountability that Responsible Tourism businesses demonstrate their achievement and Responsible Tourism differentiates itself from certification programmes.
The second reason that it is a privilege to chair the judging is the opportunity to participate in the discussion, debate and sometimes the argument about who should win and why. It is an important principle of the Awards that we give our reasons for the decisions we make and over the years we have begun to do this in more detail. Each judging day is an intensive learning experience for all who take part, not least the chair! None of the judges is paid for their contribution either in judging or writing up the judges’ reasons. The Awards are not a certification process each year we look for examples which we believe will contribute to making change in tourism. The ambition of the Awards is to surprise and inspire the tourism industry and tourists by what it is possible to achieve with Responsible Tourism.
In a sector where the idea of Responsible Tourism is taking root it is important to distinguish between those who are merely using the words and those who are taking responsibility and using tourism to make better places for people to live in, recognising that great places to live are great places to visit, that taking responsibility for maximising positive impacts and reducing negative impacts is good for society and for business.
The shortlists for the Irish and World Responsible Tourism Awards are now published. For details of the Awards use these links: