Lhasa, Tibet (PRWEB) June 07, 2012
Tibet Travel Coop is a group of Tibetan travel agencies and tour operators organized around the principles of promoting locally owned and operated Tibetan tour businesses, promoting environmental protection, and practicing responsible tourism.
As tourism in Tibet is a relatively new industry it has not had the advantage of responsible companies or visionary government policies to guide and develop the industry in a responsible manner. In too many ways the tourism industry in Tibet behaves like a booming gold rush town with little regard for the long-term protection of cultural and environmental resources.
As of 2009, there has been a gradual increase in environmental awareness and respect for cultural preservation but it is not enough to prevent significant damage to cultural and historic sites. Many environmental protection efforts are either misguided or lack long-term implementation plans. Many sites have been severely degraded environmentally and discarded trash is a huge problem throughout Tibet.
Unfortunately, both foreign and domestic tourists are unwittingly destroying the very culture and environment that attracts them to Tibet in the first place.
As tourism is in the early stages of development in Tibet, tourists and tourism operators have the responsibility of setting the example for others to come. The way locals react to tourists is defined by interactions locals have had with tourists in the past. Tourists therefore have the responsibility to set a good example for those that will follow and make sure their presence in Tibet is positive for the company, community and environment.
Tourism has the potential to have both positive and negative effects on the local environment and people. Making conscious decisions about the means and method of travel can make a difference. Taking an initiative to reduce impact and help sustain local communities is the responsible thing to do.
Responsible tourism is tourism which:
Due to scarce resources and political complication, there is not yet a unified responsible tourism initiative for Tibet. There have been some reports written about challenges and opportunities of tourism in this country by Tibet specialists. However, these reports tend to be long and far too academically oriented to read for the average Tibet traveler. Moreover, these reports and educational materials are often not accessible in Tibet for tour guides and tour operators. Some NGOs, educational institutions and local government have begun to provide practical training and workshops, and produce education materials in Tibetan areas.
Tibet can greatly benefit from a centralized effort to promote responsible tourism. However, until that happens the initiative must come from travelers, responsible operators and guides.
Tour operators and guides need to accept the responsibility of educating their clients/guests to ensure that the impact these travelers have while in Tibet is a positive one. The overall benefit from travelers coming to Tibet should not just be an economic benefit for the guide and agencies but rather a positive benefit for the local community and the environment. Agencies and guides should be encouraging their clients to take on the challenge of becoming responsible travelers.
This can be done by encouraging clients to take on the personal initiative to:
Tibet Travel Coop is a collection of local Tibetan travel agencies and guides working together to promote authentic travel experiences while contributing to the sustainability of host communities and their culture.