Corner of the Scientific Committee: Maurizio Davolio

To the section “The corner of the Scientific Committee”, dedicated to comments and insights of an institutional and corporate, public and private nature, is published today the contribution of Maurizio Davolio, President of the Italian Association for Responsible Tourism.

The principles and good practices that underpin responsible tourism are widely shared by the organizations involved: in a nutshell, they are the recognition of the sovereignty of the local community, the core of its rights and expectations, the respect of travelers for both the environment and the visited territory as well as the local community and its culture, the provision of moments of meeting between tourists and exponents of the community, the obligation to benefit the community as much as possible through the selection of local providers for all services.

But when we go from the proclamation of the theoretical principles, which I repeat, all are fully divided, to practice, in the journeys, and in the variegated concrete situations that are created. different positions, which stems from the different sensitivities of responsible tourism operators and also of their travelers: sometimes social or environmental sensitivities prevail, or those that can be attributed to religious beliefs or philosophical doctrines.What characteristics should a sustainable tourism structure have?  Find out by downloading our in-depth analysis!

The principle of full respect for the local culture and its traditions and customs (the tourist is in someone else’s house and has to adapt) can collide with situations that seem unacceptable to us.for example, when you are invited to lunch in a family house, where you only sit at the table with the male members, while the women of the family eat their meal in the kitchen or even on the floor. What to do? Leave the house and express disagreement? Stay and adapt to the situation, even if it is intolerable for us? This is how you should behave if you are invited to take part in the traditional cockfight. Are you going to see a disgusting sight? Do not go, risk insulting those who proudly invited us?

How do you assess the very frequent phenomenon of boys and girls who, when they return from school, lend a hand with their parents in the services of the family hotel? It is a regrettable exploitation of child labor, minors should only go to school, do homework and play, that is, it is a form of cooperation in the family that helps financially, in a safe context and allows them to learn a craft . , remove from the street?
Similar doubts arise in the light of other situations, e.g. the widespread informal economy that sometimes encounters in hospitality in private homes without any license or through the use of guided services without a regular license (economic activities must all be regular, based on legal and tax rules vs. in some places there are unfortunately no alternatives, they must survive somehow); exercise of gifts, visits to orphanages and so on.

Vegetarians get into big trouble when offered traditional local dishes, very often based on meat, especially in South America, but not only. Anyway, a rule of responsible tourism is to taste the traditional foods of the place visited.

The most serious problem concerns the choice of accommodation providers between resorts and hotels in the conventional tourism industry and hotels run by families or cooperatives. The good practice of responsible tourism is certainly oriented towards this second choice, aimed at generate revenue for the local community. However, the ongoing development of sensitivity and sustainability policies has led to the conclusion that many resorts and many new generations of hotels today adopt good practices for at least environmental sustainability (in the form of using renewable energy sources, saving energy consumption and water, separate waste collection, disposal of plastics, etc.), while the aforementioned hotels very often have not yet taken significant steps in this direction.

This is embarrassing conflict between environmental sustainability and social sustainability, which can lead to difficulties in making choices. In fact, in several cases, responsible tour operators help local hospitality partners to pave the way for the establishment of good environmental sustainability practices. But the problem certainly exists.

Finally, in responsible tourism individual thinking does not dominate, there are no dogmas. Alongside a system of solid and strongly shared values ​​and principles there is room for personal sensitivity and above all for the adoption of behavior also dictated by wisdom and common sense. These are topics that deserve reflection and discussion, as happens in responsible tourism courses, where all participants are passionate about these issues in search of smart solutions, as they now say on every occasion.

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