On Saturday, April 7, the first National Meeting of the Responsible Traveler was held in León, at the Sierra Pambley House Museum. It was organized and promoted by the Responsible Tourism Institute, the Provincial Council of León and the InterMundial Foundation. The city of León hosted hundreds of bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, writers and travel journalists for two days with a common goal "to generate a constructive debate on responsible tourism". Through the hashtag #Viajerosresponsables they shared images, moments and messages about the meeting in their different social networks.
During 2 days, more than 100 bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, writers and travel journalists met in León to talk about sustainable tourism. The event served as a pretext and learning opportunity so that the more than 2 million followers that these influencers handle, knew the negative impacts that tourism can produce in the destination and that they can minimize these effects. The debate revolved around the "Manifest of the Responsible Traveler", a manual that gathers the behaviors that the travelers must show during their trips, published by the Responsible Tourism Institute and the Intermundial Foundation in 2017 with the support of the World Tourism Organization.
For the development of the first day, two roundtables were designated. The first was dedicated to the importance of tourists in sustainable development and decision making, "The role of tourists in sustainability - The choice as consumers". This was attended by the speaker Miquel Silvestre, presenter, and producer of the television program "Diario de un Nómada"
The second table dealt with those tourist experiences that promote sustainability and responsibility when traveling, "Sustainable experiences for responsible tourism", with Rocío Pastor, journalist and blogger for WOMANWORD as moderator.
During the meeting, there were several speakers who presented their own experiences and the factors or situations which led them to become responsible travelers.
In the first table, 'The role of the tourist in sustainability - The choice as consumers', Miquel Silvestre, presenter and producer of the television program 'Diario de un Nómada', challenged the attendees to be uncomfortable: "Tourism is an industry that can be polluting or can improve people's lives. That's why travel chroniclers have to be uncomfortable. We have to tell the reality of the places we visit, even if it is not the image that our followers want to see or the institutions show." The uncomfortable tourist must be an actor capable of "transforming the social realities of the places visited".
“The travel reporters have to be uncomfortable”.
As for short-distance tourism, Rebeca Serna, in charge of the blog Viajeros 3.0 and president of Castilla y León Travel Bloggers, stressed that local problems such as depopulation must also be addressed: "It is necessary to boost the value of our areas that are very unknown and that, being devoid of massive tourism, they give the tourist a lot of tranquility". Rebeca also admitted that there are not so many irresponsible tourists, but uninformed, and emphasized the commitment of bloggers as responsible for publicizing these good practices: "As communicators, we have to take conscious attitudes before an audience when choosing a hotel, an activity ... We have to take into account the environment and the human factor and that our actions promote the development of the area at an environmental and social level ".
“There are not so many irresponsible tourists, but uninformed”.
Nacho Dean, the first Spanish to go around the world on foot, author of the book Libre y Salvaje and nominated for the Prince of Asturias Award in 2015, gave hope to the audience with his statements. After walking 33,000 km around the world for 3 years, he commented: "I know the dimensions of the planet, it is not so big, reason enough to take care of it. Humanity is good, otherwise my trip would have been impossible. It is a lesson in humility and austerity." However, he has also seen "many situations that responsible travelers should not support."
“Humanity is good, otherwise my trip would have been impossible”.
Iosu López, part of the project MochilerosTV and president of Madrid Travel Bloggers, alerted attendees about the importance of the scenes or realities they photograph. An image is a frequent and powerful resource for bloggers and influencers, who, although they can call the attention of the traveler with photos that denounce or reflect inequalities or degradation, at the same time they are also susceptible to commit, for example, to part of the population or local businesses. "It's about thinking of the consequences that can have the diffusion of photos and stories"
“It is about thinking of the consequences that can have the diffusion of photos and stories”.
Cristina Spínola, the first Spanish woman to cycle around the world and author of the Solaenbici blog, defended the interaction with the local community, which brings economic, cultural and social benefits to the destination: "Let's travel slowly, knowing and returning pride to local cultures".
“Sustainability is getting to know people”.
The journalist and blogger WOMANWORD moderated the second table, on 'Sustainable experiences for responsible tourism'. The moderator, who raised her voice to emphasize that "what you do in your day-to-day determines you as a traveler", gave us practical examples to not degrade the environment during our vacations, such as avoiding the use of sunscreen harmful to the sea. Regarding inequalities, Womanword stressed that "when we are responsible and aware travelers, what we have to deal with is to be human and develop our humanity. I hope that one day we stop talking about genres to be just people. "
“What you do in your day-to-day life determines you as a traveler”.
Alberto Menéndez, author of the blog and of the channel MochilerosTV made a call on the responsibility of the attendees as communicators: "There are no irresponsible travelers but poorly informed ones. It is our responsibility to be responsible travelers, inform ourselves, share and respect. He also transferred to the traveler the obligation to "respect the culture and identity of places and not pervert their way of living."
“It is our responsibility to be responsible travelers, inform ourselves, share and respect”.
Marta Goikoetxea, author of the blog Rojo Cangrejo and host of the travel TV program Viajeras con B, resorted to self-criticism telling us about a situation that made her think and go from an irresponsible to a responsible traveler. During a trip to the Dominican Republic, she decided to upload a photo bathing with a starfish. The numerous criticisms received led Marta to rethink her way of traveling and to get involved in the practice and diffusion of responsible tourism.
“I have also traveled irresponsibly and through a publication, during a trip, I changed my mindset.”
Antonio Quinzán, in charge of the Viajes y Fotografía blog, highlighted at the table the basic terms associated with sustainable tourism: sensitivity, respect, and responsibility: "Bloggers are not aware of the responsibility we have in making a decision about a trip. Let's give the readers a worthwhile experience, sometimes it is not the place, but the experience that we live in it. In addition, we are responsible that the experiences we transmit are sustainable. The contact with people is fundamental, it is vital to contribute."
“We are responsible for transmitting sustainable experiences."
Sarah Dodd, influencer and TED Talk lecturer, after touring more than 80 countries, talked about the need for tourism experiences to connect with people in a profound way.
“I have traveled alone in 85 countries, but connecting with other bloggers and influencers is fundamental to mature and share the principles of responsible tourism”.
The Responsible Blog Award recognizes the work of travel bloggers who, from their own lines, promote responsible tourism practices, guidelines set out in the Responsible Traveler Manifesto. The Manifesto is a living document that since its inception has been very well received by the traveling community, as it already has almost 700 persons adhered to it. Among the candidatures received, a committee of experts has chosen as finalists bloggers Javier Godínez, author of the blog Vivir Para Viajar and the solidarity project 'Travel, Enjoy and Help', and Mar Villalba, author of the blog Mi Ruta, which accompanies her articles with "responsible capsules"; she is also the creator of the projects "Mi Ruta Responsable" and the seal to the traditional trade "Premio Mi Ruta Calidad".
The winners of the Responsible Blog Award were Inma Gregorio and José Manuel Martínez, from the blog A World To Travel, thanks to their dissemination of the commitment to responsible tourism through various formats and channels. Inma and José define themselves as a team of photography, filming, and writing that is certain that being a responsible blogger is not only sharing what is beautiful but also to reporting what is wrong, highlighting situations that can be done better.