Barcelona Declaration: 5 Steps to Follow for Responsible Tourism
Tourism plays an important role in society and this has led us to a new strategy for sustainable tourism which benefits both locals and visitors at various destinations. This is one of the reasons why different work groups related to the sector met in Barcelona a few days ago at the International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations, where a set of recommendations that will marks the tourist developments over the coming years was agreed. From Responsible Hotels, we present the five main conclusions that emerge from this “Barcelona Declaration for Responsible Tourism”:
1. Take responsibility for the environmental impact of tourism
Tourism is a hugely important economic activity which creates jobs and promotes understanding and respect for different societies and cultures, but we must not forget the negative impact it has on the environment. The consumption of non-renewable resources such as soil or water, its contribution to climate change and air pollution are some of the points which must be prevented in the best possible way. The control of these and their proper management are essential for preservation of the environment and the livelihood of tourism. Among the solutions which have been mentioned, planning for sustainability is paramount. The involvement of all those involved is very important and must include from the locals and tourists to businesses and the public sector.
In this regard, it is also important for companies to adopt an approach in which the destination is managed and cared for, and which tries to minimise negative impacts by providing environmental information to tourists. In addition to this, “sustainability marketing” is essential, i.e., the promotion of local products, preservation of cultural and natural heritage, cooperation and integration of the host societies and the contribution to the improvement of local life and economic development.
2. The role of governments in destination management and planning
Governing these destinations is more than just public administration and therefore must identify all those involved and ensure they work together. This requires those in charge of institutional and administrative matters to have a tourism plan which includes all those involved, precisely identifying anyone who is involved in this process and actively involving them in the planning and management of tourism. Local governments have to take responsibility for general issues such as transport, planning and public services as well as also promoting and contributing capital to develop products that address the gaps in demand the destination has and building on its strengths.
Another point to consider in this Barcelona Declaration is the assessment of the magnitude and impact of tourism beyond the typical amount of visitors. In this regard we should also consider the tourists’ qualities and the distribution of the economic benefits of tourism, and better understand the sociocultural impact for citizens. Another important aspect to consider is to maximise the tourism potential to increase tourism in the long term and possibly even attract foreign investment. This new model of more permeable tourism therefore requires greater communication between authorities and citizens.
3. The sense of the place: local communities, responsibility and the visitor experience.
The sense of place is at the centre of responsible tourism, contributing to the identity and links inside it, while also improving the visitor experience. It is important to balance the desire for authenticity with the need to control or avoid impact from tourism. The destination’s image can contribute to a sense of place that can be a competitive business advantage and the interaction of citizens and tourists is essential to understanding the sociocultural impacts of tourism. Creating a better place to live and work creates a better place to visit.
Practical steps can be taken to understand and manage the interaction between locals and visitors, learning from the experiences of other destinations. These practices and management processes should be reflected in an action plan in order to identify those responsible for each action. Improving the destination is essential with the help of everyone, including visitors.
4. The extension of social participation in tourism: access for all.
Everyone, without exception, have the right to free time and relaxation which allows them to develop all facets of their personality and their social integration. It is therefore very important to aim for inclusive tourism where there are no physical, sensory or intellectual barriers for the disabled. Similarly open social tourism must be promoted for groups with economic constraints or geographical difficulties.
In the Barcelona Declaration, a strong commitment to the social inclusion of people with disabilities has been established by providing services and training to ensure accessibility to all areas of life, enabling them to function independently and participate actively in their environment. Working against architectural barriers that hinder this integration is essential in this area. The tourism industry must take responsibility and support programs that ensure access to all tourists, recognising the potential of this market segment as a business opportunity.
5. The management of cruise tourism in the Mediterranean.
Cruises and related services must also be designed with sustainability in mind. Other factors should be included, such as efficiency and environmental protection measures, fair working conditions and suppliers. It is important that locals benefit from the arrival of the cruise and are themselves responsible for the services needed. Environmental and social criteria must be incorporated by the companies supplying goods and services for cruises and land excursions.
Care for cruise destinations and avoiding crowds of people which reduce resources and space, forcing locals to move away, are also important factors. This flow of passengers must be managed in a responsible manner so that there are no problems between locals and tourists.
The Barcelona Declaration is the basis for the development of sustainable tourism involving all those affected. Of all the conclusions that can be drawn from the document, this basic premise is the most vital: the effort and the work of all those involved is required. The experiences of locals and tourists are added to the opinions of industry players and the local government in order to work together as a community, making the tourist destination more attractive and environmentally friendly while tourists’ satisfaction levels grow and enable new tourists, who until now haven’t been able to travel due to their disabilities, take part. This is a joint effort which becomes improvements in the economy and the natural environment.