Responsible Tourism: First Tourist Board League Table Published. The Best Ranked National Tourist Boards were Bhutan, South Africa, Sweden and England

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Responsible Travel has published the first league table of Tourist Boards graded by commitment to responsible tourism as published on their websites, and asks whether more should be done to ensure tax payers’ money is being used to promote local over global initiatives.

In many cases around the world we think responsibility in tourism is being achieved despite the tourist board not because of it.

The National Tourist Board websites of Responsible Travel’s top 50 destinations were examined and six questions were asked, relating to tourists boards’ vision, policies and activity in responsible and sustainable tourism:

1. Is there any mention anywhere of responsible or sustainable tourism?
2. Does responsible or sustainable tourism feature in their vision/mission?
3. Do they have any specific policies for responsible or sustainable tourism?
4. Do they have evidence based reports on any achievements in responsible or sustainable tourism?
5. Do they identify holidays on their site that have been screened or audited for responsible tourism?
6. Do they provide any educational information or tips for tourists about responsible tourism?

Tourist Boards could score a maximum of 6 points (all covered) and a minimum of 0. Seven Tourist Boards scored 0 - China, Finland, Ethiopia, Vietnam, France, Japan and the USA, meaning they had no reference to responsible or sustainable tourism anywhere on their sites. They have no published policies; no evidence of any achievement and provide no information for tourists. Bhutan, South Africa and Sweden all scored 6 points.

Commenting on the results, Responsible Travel CEO Justin Francis said:
"We are very surprised that so many Tourist Boards’ vision statements include no or little reference to sustainability; and by how many have no published responsible tourism policies or activities. We think that serious questions should be asked of the tourist boards at the bottom of our league table. Their tax-payers’ money is potentially being spent developing and promoting tourism with no regard to whether it’s contributing to creating local jobs or expat jobs; whether they source locally to support local suppliers/producers or source from global markets; or whether they contribute to sustaining natural and cultural heritage or to destroying it.

In many cases around the world we think responsibility in tourism is being achieved despite the tourist board not because of it. South Africa is a real exception. They have national and local strategies for responsible tourism enshrined in law and policy and with real programs of work to deliver it, although delivery is still patchy. Without any clearly visible published policies for responsible tourism we cannot be sure tourist boards have any way to manage tourism for the benefit of local communities. In other destinations there are excellent examples of highly responsible local businesses, yet their hard work and commitment is not reflected in their tourist boards communications. Our research looks at the tourist board’s ability to communicate policies and action around responsible tourism - not local businesses."


Note to editors
We are purely judging national tourist boards’ commitment to responsible tourism based on what they publish online and the only evidence is what we have found on their websites. Like normal tourists, we do not know all that tourist boards are doing to make sure that their local suppliers, employees and natural heritage benefit from their work to bring more tourists to their country; we can only go on what they publish on their websites.


Top 50 Tourist Boards graded by published commitment to responsible tourism

South Africa    6
Bhutan    6
Sweden    6
England    6
Botswana    5
Costa Rica    5
Chile    5
Morocco    5
Norway    5
Laos    5
Indonesia    5
India    4
Peru    4
Burma (Myanmar)    4
Namibia    4
Tanzania    4
Uganda    4
Canada    4
Kenya    4
Spain    3
Madagascar    3
Scotland    3
Jordan    3
Nepal    3
Australia    3
Croatia    2
Ecuador    2
Thailand    2
Cambodia    2
Romania    2
Zambia    2
Italy    1
Cuba    1
Malaysia    1
Sri Lanka    1
Turkey    1
Portugal    1
Trinidad & Tobago    1
Greece    1
Iceland    1
Bolivia    1
Tibet    1
Montenegro    1
Finland    0
Vietnam    0
Japan    0
France    0
China    0
Ethiopia    0
USA    0

About Responsible Travel:
Responsible Travel is the world’s leading market place for small and tailor-made tour operators, all screened for their commitment to responsible tourism.

Responsible Travel connects these operators with people looking for real & authentic holidays. Starting with just 2 tour operators in 2001 we’ve become the leading place to find tours from over 400 small & specialist tour companies in 197 countries. As tourism grows globally the opportunity for authentic experiences diminishes, and the impacts of tourism on places & local people (not always positive) grows. We’ve found the secret to authentic travel is treating local people & places responsibly.    

In addition Responsible Travel:

  • campaigns for positive change in the travel and tourism industry.
  • is publishing an expanding collection of open, honest travel guides
  • organises the World Responsible Tourism Awards. Now in their 12th year, the Awards celebrate the most inspiring stories in responsible tourism and are hosted by World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry. Follow Awards news and updates on Twitter: @RTAwards or #WRTA2015 and Facebook

CEO Justin Francis has been included in Courvoisiers The Future 500, Thames and Hudsons 60 Innovators Shaping Our Creative Future and taken his place on the Advisory Board of The International Centre for Responsible Tourism.

The company is based in Brighton's North Laine district, England.

For further information, interview and comment contact
Sasha Chisholm
T: +44 (0)1273 829271
M: +44 (0)7568 107963
E: sasha(at)responsibletravel(dot)com

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Sarah Bareham
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