By Stephen Chapman
Sustainable travel, responsible tourism, ecotourism, green travel. The whole idea of travelling in a manner that encompasses all that these tags imply sounds less and less fun to me as the movement grows. Every now and then I feel the need to reinstate what Make Travel Fair is all about and just how important I think its message is. No one has the right to fill others with guilt about their travelling habits. I’m exhausted with hearing about what I should be doing as a ‘responsible traveller’, that I shouldn’t fly, that I should visit an orphange whilst i’m away, that I should patronise local businesses, that I shouldn’t use a guidebook.
“The problem lies in promoting travel as a commodity. It destroys the essence like water to a single malt whisky – the essence is what Make Travel Fair is all about.”
Tourism is big business. The elaborate stands on display at the World Travel Market in London next week will be testament to that. Even the most well intentioned individuals promoting ‘responsible tourism’ will find it becomes increasingly hard to stay true to the essence of travel in order to get on in the tourism business, because here there is no money to be made. You cannot sell travel. You cannot sell the unique journey that each person experiences by travelling independently. There is simply no substitute for making plans yourself and experiencing the world that way. Of course tours and packaged experiences are necessary and desired sometimes, but let them be bought up on a whim when you roll into town, after you’ve checked out the competition, or when you want to learn a new skill. Rarely will you require a tour lasting longer than three to four days, don’t dilute your experience by leaving home as part of one.
Travel in its purest form removes the need for any categorising or labelling of intentions under green travel, eco travel or any other banner. What is most important is that travel is a personal, inner journey that challenges us and encourages personal growth; an experience that we can learn from and can use to connect more intimately with the world around us. Being ‘responsible’ or ethical today is portrayed as a conscious travel choice and is catered for accordingly by businesses falling over themselves to give you that ethical experience that you’ve been told to seek. However, the ‘responsible’ or ethical choice has been made unconsciously for years by those who travel freely. Independent travellers don’t need to be sold on sustainable travel, for them it’s what they do anyway because the essence of travel is intact, no additives or preservatives.
Stephen Chapman is founder of Make Travel Fair and editor of Make Travel Fair UK. Recently returned from an around-the-world trip taking in the Cook Islands, New Zealand and Indonesia amongst others. He is always planning his next escape but in the mean time is learning to appreciate the surroundings he grew up in.