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Modern Magna Carta: Cape Town Declaration of Responsible Tourism



In the lead up to the 800th Magna Carta Anniversary this year Ashley Summers takes a look at the original and a series of modern ‘versions’ of the Magna Carta from the US Constitution to the UN Declaration of Human Rights and various conventions on climate change and sustainability, Magna Carta for the Earth.

Many travellers have claimed that what they do whilst visiting other countries is far from ‘tourism’, as tourism to them suggests a pre-packaged itinerary, with all the bells and whistles that money can buy– for those who only have a week off from work. Traveling, they say, is more about the connection with the people and the place, and less about the activities. The fact remains, however, that your preferred word-choice is secondary to the act. While it’s difficult to qualify the distinctions, one thing is certain: all people use fossil-fuel burning planes for their flights. Herein, the term ‘tourism’ will be representative of all wanderlust parties.

The Cape Town Conference was organised by the Responsible Tourism Partnership and Western Cape Tourism as a side event preceding the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in August, 2002. There were 280 attendees from 20 countries. The idea of sustainable tourism calls for people to be mindful of their impact on the place, the people, and their impact on climate change. In a USA Today article, Jamie Lisse suggests that “sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy.”

The declaration itself calls for the “Conscious[ness] of developments in other industries and sectors, and in particular of the growing international demand for ethical business, and the adoption of clear Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies by companies, and the transparent reporting of achievements in meeting CSR objectives in company annual reports.”

It further states that they “[recognise] that there has been considerable progress in addressing the environmental impacts of tourism, although there is a long way to go to achieve sustainability; and that more limited progress has been made in harnessing tourism for local economic development, for the benefit of communities and indigenous peoples, and in managing the social impacts of tourism.”

Taking on the following characteristics, Responsible Tourism:

– Minimises negative economic, environmental, and social impacts;

– Generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry;

– Involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances;

– Makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world’s diversity;

– Provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues;

– Provides access for physically challenged people; and

– Is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.

The declaration further breaks down economic, social, and environmental responsibilities with a listing of guiding principles, detailing the duties that come with the desire to see the world.

Photo: Makio Kusahara via Freeimages

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