Responsible tourism comes down to “making better places to live in”. This is the view of Harold, known far and wide for his impressive accomplishments as WTM’s Responsible Tourism Advisor. From curating the flagship programme at WTM London to running programmes at WTM Africa, Latin America and Arabian Travel Market, he has undeniably impacted the inbound and outbound tourism industry.
As a consultant for companies, NGOs, governments and international organisations, it’s no wonder that Harold is the go-to voice on responsible tourism.
How did you become passionate about transforming the industry to be more responsible?
I was travelling to some of the world’s most iconic wildlife destinations, and I kept seeing the ecotourism slogan “take only photographs, leave only footprints”. This is extractive and exploitative – the communities excluded from the land gain very little, and as our research showed, too often, the wealthy visitor is subsidised by national taxpayers.
What advice do you give those who want to market their responsible efforts without sounding like greenwashing?
Be clear about what you are taking responsibility for and why and what you are doing, and report the impact of your efforts.
Why did you launch the Responsible Tourism Awards, and how do they benefit the industry?
We started the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards in 2004 to recognise those taking responsibility and making tourism better, recognition for the winners, and hopefully an inspiration to others. It’s a prestigious award, and because we are explicit about why they have won, there is a third-party expert story to add credibility and distinguish them in the marketplace. Winning is also good for staff morale and retention.
What are some trends you see in responsible tourism globally?
Unfortunately, too many casually add responsibility to their sustainable efforts and promote themselves as “responsible and sustainable”. This is a giveaway; it is so often greenwashing. Responsibility drives sustainability; the only way to distinguish your business as responsible is to be clear about what you are doing and transparently report your positive impacts.
What are your thoughts on balancing economic growth and environmental protection?
Travelling to the destination, we must make choices that reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. In the destination, we need to protect nature, and we need to demand that transport providers decarbonise rapidly. We must ensure shops don’t sell craft and souvenirs made from coral and ivory etc., and that accommodation landscapes with native flora to protect in and the wildlife that inhabits it.
What are some of your tips to travel more consciously?
Travel in the lowest carbon way possible and engage with the people in your chosen destination, with their environment and culture.
Find out more about Harold here.