What does it really mean to have a good vacation? Responsible tourism is a global effort to include the health of host communities in the vacation equation. The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is a leader in responsible tourism practices and leverages them to support communities economically, socially, and environmentally.
UNWTO is a part of the United Nations and influences the tourism sector worldwide while promoting the Sustainable Development Goals, which reduce poverty, foster sustainable economic development, and encourage sustainable tourism on the consumer side. Win, win, am I right?
Bodhi Surf + Yoga, a vacation destination in Costa Rica, has extended beyond the core tenants of responsible tourism and built these responsible practices into an enlightening experience for their guests. Bodhi’s commitment to preserving the oceans and communities from which they benefit is the bare minimum for this group of visionaries. Co-founder Adrianne Chandra-Huff was eager to share Bodhi’s secrets to running a successful responsible tourism business and bringing guests into that lasting effort on the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation podcast.
The Bodhi team operates within a tourism hotspot. The tourism industry in Costa Rica yields $1.7 billion each year. 80% of those tourists that visit the country come to participate in eco-tourism which encompasses sprawling beaches, luscious landscapes, protected national parks, and some of the world’s most coveted waves. Bodhi understands the impact of tourism on their Costa Rican community, and they welcome their guests to not only relax, grow, and explore, but also include in their efforts the greater economic benefits and the well-being of their beautiful host community.
What is Responsible Tourism?
Responsible tourism minimizes the negative impact of tourism on the environment and maximizes the positive impact of tourism on local communities.
Often used interchangeably with sustainable tourism, responsible tourism focuses more on holding organizations and businesses accountable for their environmental and social impacts while sustainable tourism is a piece of that.
The 2002 Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism defined responsible tourism as tourism “that creates better places for people to live in, and better places to visit”. This simplified definition encapsulates the need for sustainable development which encourages meaningful connection with local communities, local people, and cultural heritage. Embedded in this lies a sustainability component of teaching tourists about their own environmental impact.
Why Does Responsible Tourism Matter?
Two key components of responsible tourism are protecting the environment and involving the communities adjacent to high tourist areas in the decision making that dictates how the industry operates.
Many environmental issues are exacerbated by overtourism. For example, archaeologists in Peru are concerned about the effects of tourism on the cultural heritage site of Machu Picchu.
Peru’s tourism industry generates $20 billion each year largely due to the 6,000 visitors to Machu Picchu each day. The country recently enacted responsible tourism measures to limit time frames for visitors and break up ticket sales into morning and afternoon slots. These changes aim to curb the environmental issues that threaten the longevity of Machu Picchu, like erosion and damage to the ruins.
As curious beings, we still want to experience the magic of places like Machu Picchu. As tour operators work to integrate responsible tourism into their practices, it’s up to us to vote with our dollars and ensure that these practices become the norm.
Many operators in Cusco are employing local people, many of indigenous descent, to facilitate enjoyable experiences for tourists that showcase local pride while forging meaningful connections. When local people have a voice in how their ancestry and homelands are being valued by visitors, they directly receive the positive effects and benefits to the local economy.
At its core, responsible tourism practices enable those most closely related to tourism destinations to benefit the most. This distribution of wealth is important because not only do local people invest their livelihoods into the preservation of their own oceans, woods, and waterways, they continue to live there after visitors go back home.
The benefits of responsible tourism on local communities—economically & environmentally:
- Increased job opportunities for local tour operators, craftspeople, and indigenous communities.
- Reduction in environmental damages like pollution and erosion.
- Encourages a greater understanding of environmental issues, which loops back to serve the community through integrated involvement in environmental protection.
Bodhi Surf + Yoga: Creating an Impactful, & Sustainable Travel Experience
In this episode of the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Podcast, Cory chatted with Adrianne Chandra-Huff from Bodhi Surf & Yoga, the first B Corp Certified surf and yoga camp in the world. She shared some of her insights and beliefs around the role of such a business and its relationship to its surroundings and community.
While many retreat oriented facilities in tropical locations can isolate themselves from the community, Bodhi does the opposite. At the core of the mission at Bodhi Surf + Yoga is a strong tie to Bahia Bellena where the camp operates. Bahia Bellena is uniquely positioned on the coast and while touched by tourism, it remains a place in which “Ticos”, or native Costa Ricans, live harmoniously with the tourism industry and the natural wonder of the land and sea.
Between surf sessions and yoga practices, Bodhi integrates a strong connection to the community by facilitating a walking tour with a local guide and encouraging groups to go into town for meals and experiences on their own. They create work and benefit for the community all the while donating their services and giving back. By not being an all-inclusive resort, Bodhi shares the value-add of visitors by purposefully including the local economy.
Bodhi was built around accommodating hardworking people from around the world who have few vacation days and crave the nurturing effects of spending time in a vibrant and sustainable community. Visitors connect with themselves on a deeper level by pushing themselves to learn new skills and live outside their comfort zone.
“Your place is so much more than Surf and Yoga camp – it’s a whole lifestyle and supportive/inspiring community of awesome people. I noticed that I became more conscious about my purchases and choices after our trip (and also found out more B Corporations that I can support).” –Julia, a Bodhi guest on TripAdvisor
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Bodhi has committed to keeping all staff hired and continued to forge meaningful connections with their surroundings and community members. The co-founders have made a commitment to being carbon neutral by 2021 and have already phased out single-use plastics.
In this circular view of responsible tourism, Bodhi employs techniques that benefit the community both short and long term. In hosting beach cleanups and surf lessons for the community, they benefit locals while protecting the environment from pollution.
As Adrianne mentions in the podcast:
“As a tourism company, you are benefiting from the very resources that sort of draw people to you in the first place. So, that’s to say if it worse becomes super polluted down here, people probably won’t come anymore. So, we have I think, like, a moral and fiduciary imperative to take care of those very entities that we benefit from.”
By integrating all parties in all matters, Bodhi blurs the line of tourist and local, creating a completely unique and impactful experience for them as business owners, members of the community, and their guests.
Adrianne Chandra-Huff, Co-Founder & Social Good-Doer
An unlikely social entrepreneur, Adrianne was on a path to study law and saw change as happening from the top down. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to building a sustainable eco-tourism company that uses surfing and yoga as tools to encourage guests to develop a relationship to the planet while reconnecting with themselves.
Adrianne is an extrovert and perpetual creator. Whether it’s dishing up meals for Bodhi guests, serving as the team’s content guru, or facilitating conversations on responsible travel, Adrianne approaches each moment as a learning opportunity.
In addition to her duties at Bodhi, Adrianne serves on the Board of nonprofit Geoporter and is creator of the B Corp Travel and Tourism group.
Leading By Example: How to Encourage Responsible Tourism Practices
With Bodhi Surf + Yoga as a ‘shining example,’ here’s ways we can all be a bit more sustainable, responsible, and purposeful in how we travel.
1. Offset Emissions Where You Can
Plane travel is one of the most harmful parts of traveling for the planet, but many airlines offer carbon offset plans at the time of purchase. This is a fantastic way to make your vacation carbon neutral. Bodhi automatically does it for each guest!
2. Maintenance of the World
Think twice about tossing that plastic container! Reducing your own mindless consumption of single-use plastics and the production of waste will keep it out of the oceans that are needed for local communities to enable tourism.
3. Give Back
Wondering how you too, can save the ocean? Bodhi facilitates a Travelers’ Philanthropy Program that enables guests to donate 1-2% of the trip’s cost to a cause of their own choosing. Next time you visit somewhere new, try to set aside a small portion of your travel budget to make a positive contribution.
4. Practice mindfulness!
Sometimes all it takes is to imagine yourself in the shoes of the locals. If this were your backyard, how would you treat it? Where would you shop? How would you treat the environment? How can you change the world you live in?
Conclusion: Are We There Yet?
Responsible and sustainable tourism is an increasingly crucial piece of how humans can heal the planet. Even in the COVID-19 era, as you staycation, visit family, or lust after world travel, take a moment to think about how you can make a difference, and have a positive impact on the place you’re visiting.
Every trip is a new opportunity for a greater understanding of the planet and the people who rely on its splendor for their livelihoods.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Additional Resources & Links Mentioned from the Episode:
- Adrianne on Medium
- Adrianne on LinkedIn
- Bodhi Surf & Yoga
- Amigos of Costa Rica
Sustainable Workplaces Manager & Writer
Jackie is the Sustainable Workplaces Manager at Urban Green Lab, a sustainability education nonprofit in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s passionate about connecting people with actionable ways to make a positive impact on the environment. She graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in Environmental Studies and a certificate in Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Jackie worked in the nonprofit world in Washington D.C. for Ashoka and the National Building Museum.
Jackie enjoys hiking with her rescue dog, finding craft breweries, and traveling the globe in search of plant-based eats.