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#ResponsibleBlogs Working Together Towards More Responsible Tourism – But What The Hell That Means?

About a year ago Finnish travel bloggers put their clever minds together and started a campaign in order to spread the word about responsible tourism among Finnish travelers. This year’s campaign has just started, and with this blog post I want to take one step further and challenge also YOU to be part of the fun on #ResponsibleBlogs worldwide. Are you brave enough to take the challenge?

Don't be a fool, be responsible. Join us on #ResponsibleBlogs to spread the word - What The Hell Is Responsible Tourism?
Don’t be a silly tourist, be a responsible tourist! Let’s spread the word with #ResponsibleBlogs campaign! Photo from Pixabay.


#ResponsibleBlogs in Finland: How did it begin?

Finnish travel bloggers are currently running their second campaign about responsible tourism. It all started about a year ago, in February 2015, after one of the biggest travel agencies and tour operators in Finland published a photo on Instagram where a tourist was lying next to a tiger.

It created a huge fuss on social media, and one by one nearly all travel bloggers in Finland made an effort to write a full blog post about irresponsible tourist activities where animals are suffering, and like in this case, even drugged, just for a fun holiday photo.

Long story short, the campaign worked. Word has power! Thanks to the bad publicity spreading all over internet and social media, several travel agencies in Finland eventually announced to stop co-operation with certain unethical tourist activities. Yes, it all happened thanks to the Finnish #ResponsibleBlogs campaign – word still has power!

A new campaign has been under discussion for a while. In February this year, exactly a year after the first #ResponsibleBlogs campaign, a new issue was raised on Facebook that got all travel bloggers on their toes. Nearly all biggest travel agencies in Finland are recommending their clients travelling to Tenerife in Canary Island to have a fun family day trip to Loro Parque zoo. What a fun, child friendly destination, they say on their brochures.

But is it really?

These travel agencies, who are saying to be responsible and not approving any kind of mistreatment of animals, is recommending their clients to visit a zoo with four orcas, also known as killer whales, living in captivity and entertaining tourists in a pool way too small for such huge animals. These orcas are feeling so ill in captivity that they have attacked their trainers several times, once even with deadly consequences. And Loro Parque is only ‘one fish in the sea’. The same has happened since, and it will, unfortunately, most probably also happen in the future – as long as we allow it to continue.

So much of a child friendly tourist attraction, right?

Orcas a.k.a. killer whales don't belong in a pool - it's not very responsible, is it? What is responsible tourism? Take the #ResponsibleBlogs challenge!
Orcas don’t belong in a pool, they should be able to live free in the sea. Photo from Pixabay.

Some Finnish travel bloggers already tried to start a public conversation about the topic with the biggest tour operators in Finland. They were contacted via Twitter, but the conversation ended shortly. Everyone following the topic was shocked how travel agencies can still say one thing and yet do the exact opposite. Questions were asked but not answered, so the topic for this year’s #ResponsibleBlogs campaign was born: tour operator’s responsibility!

The truth is, as long as our trusted tour operators keep advertising unethical and irresponsible tourist activities, as long they keep existing. What is travel agency’s responsibility, if they say to resist any kind of unethical activities and yet keep advertising destinations like Loro Parque? Is it underestimating their paying customers? Are they just unaware of facts or ignoring them? Or is it something completely else?

Even the main association of responsible tourism in Finland participated on the current #ResponsibleBlogs campaign and wrote about tour operators’ responsibility on their own blog (unfortunately in Finnish only). They took the challenge, will you?

Don't be a fool, be responsible instead! What is Responsible Tourism and how can we spread the word? Take part in #ResponsibleBlogs challenge!
What do you think, is this how dolphins flirt when living free in nature? Photo from Pixabay.

What is responsible tourism – Area of expertise or just common sense?

It’s a little bit too easy to think your acts don’t matter. Oh, my few pennies are nothing in tourism business, it doesn’t matter where my money goes. No one notices anyway. Sounds familiar?

Stop that nonsense! It does matter, and I will prove it to you! We have quite a fresh example right here in Finland what can happen when the word spreads and people takes their money somewhere else. Just a few months ago, in October 2015, one of the biggest amusement parks called Särkänniemi in the city of Tampere announced to close their dolphinarium. Why? Because it was unprofitable business. People cared. People talked. People took their money and spent it on better things. More ethical things. They didn’t want to see those dolphins suffering anymore. Word has power! And dolphins don’t flirt with roses when they get to live free in nature.

So know your values. Take YOUR many far away from such activites you don’t want to support. You have a right to choose. You have a right to require more!

And spread the word. The biggest changes today start with a Facebook or Twitter post written by a normal nobody. Someone like you and me.

Word has power! Money has power! Money also has power when someone doesn’t have it! Unethical tourist activities will eventually stop when people stop spending their money on them! So know where your money goes to. Even if the money flow doesn’t stop completely, when it decreases enough, it will make the tour operators think. Once they start thinking, they also start acting.

Remember to question any phenomena on social media. If it’s said on Facebook or Twitter, it doesn’t yet mean it’s true. Not all the zoos are unethical.

So what is that responsible tourism after all? Is it something you need to be expert on to understand what it means, or could it be just common sense? Do we need to travel a lot to be able to open our eyes to it, or could it be something we see every single day, even in our home town?

The truth is, every single smart person can tell if an act or activity is wrong or not. Know what your values are and act exactly how your common sense and conscience tells you to. Say no to everything that makes you feel bad or sad. Be fair, be responsible; don’t hit anyone or anything that’s already down. And do not ride an elephant, pose with a tiger or pay to watch a huge whale doing tricks in a small pool where it doesn’t belong to. Pick up a trash and put it in a bin next to you. It’s so simple! It’s nothing but common sense!

Trash heroes pick up trash from the island of Koh Lipe in Thailand. Anyone can be a her. Trash hero! You could be one! Take the #ResponsibleBlogs challenge!
Anyone can be a hero. Trash hero! A Finnish travel blogger from a blog called Siveltimellä took part on a Trash Hero campaign during her holiday in Thailand. They picked up 650 kg of trash from the beaches of Koh Lipe island. Does it sound like a lot? Well, those Trash Heroes do it every single week! There’s something to think about! Photo: Sanna / Siveltimellä travel blog.

#ResponsibleBlogs – it’s time for a challenge!

Will you dare to take it?

Dear reader, now I’d like to hear about your thoughts and experiences on the topic; what is the travel agency’s or tour operator’s responsibility on responsible tourism and what do you think about it? Please share your thoughts on the comments section below. You can share just a few words or write a longer comment, it’s totally up to you. You can answer to one of these questions or just one or some of them.

Is responsible tourism affecting on your travel decisions, like destination, activities, etc.? If yes, how?

How would you wish travel agencies to act within the topic? Do you mind if they e.g. recommend tourist activities like Loro Parque or posing with a tiger? Or riding an elephant?

Where do you find information about responsible tourist attractions and activities on your travel destination?

And you, dear travel blogger:

1. Share a memory from your past travels that you nowadays think wasn’t so responsible? It’s totally fine to change the ways of thinking and acting afterwards. Past is past.

2. Share one decision you have made during your travels after you have changed your way of thinking.

Also, please challenge two fellow travel bloggers to take #ResponsibleBlogs challenge. Use the tag when you share your post on social media and share other bloggers’ posts using the same tag. Remember to ask your readers to share their thoughts and experiences as well, even if they aren’t bloggers.

And all bloggers, please note; you DON’T need to wait until someone challenges you in person. This campaign is for everyone to participate and we wish to spread the word all over the world, no matter where do you live and what is your language! Share the love, share the word, because word has power!

My challenge – my big confession:

So, it’s time for my big confession. In summer of 2007 I was living in Fuengirola, Spain for a few months doing internship for my studies. One evening we were sitting on the terrace of our shared flat with my roommates and making plans for the upcoming weekend. I told my friends I’d love to go to see a bullfight. You see, I’ve been travelling in Spain dozens of times since I was a little baby, but I had never seen a bullfight, even if it’s such an important part of Spanish culture.

Do you want to guess what kind of response I got from my friends? They were staring at me with a judging look in their eyes and snapping at me; Why in the hell would you want to see a bullfight, they asked.

I was 23 years old at the time. I had been travelling in Spain since I was a little baby, but I had never ever heard before what happens to the bull after the bullfight – without exceptions. I had always been so credulous and sure of the fact that a bull is always smarter and stronger than a human being. Little did I know that the poor bull would be speared to death anyway.

#ResponsibleBlogs - together toward more responsible tourism. Would you go to see a bullfight in Spain?

#ResponsibleBlogs - working together towards more responsible tourism. Would you go to see a bullfight in Spain?

After hearing the ugly truth about bullfights I didn’t want to go to see one anymore. And I never did, not even if I have lived in Spain for a full year since.

Although I remember when I was driving on the Spanish countryside with my friends, we had to stop the car to go to see some extremely weird activity on a field next to the road. These photos are taken in 2012 somewhere in South-West of Spain. There were men riding their horses, chasing young bulls with spears in their hands. I still don’t know for sure, but I guess it was training for a proper bullfight. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Either or, I really wish those bulls stayed alive, even if the chance for that might be quite tiny. With that said, let this weird Spanish activity be closest to a bullfight I will ever see. Ever.

After confessions being made, I will throw the #ResponsibleBlogs challenge to my two favourite UK bloggers, Rachel from Vagabond Baker and John from Continental Breakfast Travel Blog! You’re welcome, I hope you’ll take the challenge (if you dare).

Hey, did you know that Live now – dream later is also on Facebook! By following you’ll receive all my travel tips and stories also when there are no new posts on the blog.  Once we started, why not to follow also on Twitter and Instagram, where you can find me as @saanajaakkola.

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