Sustainable tourism definition and the role of the Responsible Tourism Institute
In just a few decades, tourism has become one of the fastest growing sectors on the planet, a powerful vector of cultural, economic and social relationships that fulfills the expectations of millions of citizens. However we are dealing with an ambivalent phenomenon. Tourism can certainly be seen as an activity capable of promoting social and economic cohesion in an unequal world, as a creative force for mutual cultural enrichment, and even as a social right in the new millennium; though it may also become a vector of destruction of local identities and territories or in a global homogenization machine.
If we want to develop sustainable tourism, it needs to be able to satisfy the desires of hosts and current and future visitors, as well as to meet the economic, social and strategic needs, maintaining cultural integrity and ecological processes in the long term.
We can say Tourism is everybody's business: a complex world of relationships involving the tourism industry, host communities and the tourists themselves. Therefore, tourism can be understood as a vector of peace, as a collaborating force for the maintenance of cultural diversity and as a promoter of alliances for Sustainable Development.
The tourist industry (hotel, tourism associations, service agencies, carriers, tour operators, etc.) is one of the three major players in tourism; tourism in a living and extremely rich in diversity planet. The protagonists (industry, host communities, supported by the competent authorities, and tourists) are the key elements of dialogue and consensus that will serve as a base to the commitment for sustainability.
One of the most important challenges nowadays, and that involves all stakeholders in tourism, is to design sustainable tourism models that will allow offering "sustainable products".
Thus, far from conceiving tourism with a focus exclusively on demand, which sees tourism as a whole or flow of visitors to a place where a product is not identified but a group of consumers, tourists or visitors is, from the Responsible Tourism Institute, we understand tourism as a complex system in which merge in an all visitors, resident population, territory and heritage, based on an integrative approach in which environmental variables must be combined with the remaining variables of sustainability: social, cultural, economic, institutional and ethical principles of the producers and consumers of tourism services.
Although until recently it was difficult to establish the exact variables that affect the sustainability of a destination or an entity, with the Summit of Sustainable Development of the United Nations and the establishment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved in the framework of the Agenda 2030, there are now magnitudes that define sustainability in a more specific and consensual way. These objectives, therefore, must be measured as a tool for calculating the sustainability of a destination or an entity, and it is on this view that the Responsible Tourism Institute created the so-called Responsible Tourism System (RTS), which is publicly recognized through the BIOSPHERE certification