Responsible tourism benefits all: nature, local people, those who work and those who travel!
Responsible tourism is a relatively new approach to tourism which, by definition, deals with the environment and the people in the visited places, also including aspects of ecotourism and sustainable tourism.
However, a universally accepted definition of ecotourism and responsible tourism has not yet been defined, since the term has taken over the years many differents meanings and interpretations.
All voices relating to tourism as "responsible tourism", "solidarity", "sustainable", "ecotourism" and so on, are collected at least in the basic definition that we put in the word "responsible tourism."
There are a lot of sites about responsible tourism, with different interpretations, some also claiming an authority they don't have at all (amatorial sites, blogs and so on) and there are only few sites of serious and competent organizations. Also because of this, the interpretation is very different between individual organizations.
In short, it is often just a matter of money..you pay and you become a responsible tourism operator. This is what happened to us, even with international organizations of ecotourism and responsible tourism. Sure, it's okay to pay the costs of certification, but we would prefer to be subjected, at least sometimes, to some check for that certification (especially when you pay substantial figures), because certainly we do not fear control.
Several operators have even explicitly created, under the "label" of responsible tourism, sustainable travel or solidarity, officially to support environmental groups, trade fair, works of charity and so on, in fact with the sole purpose of pure and simple business in this emerging segment of the market, and this is a growing problem.
Responsible tourism is positive, but is endangering his reputation. In our opinion, it is not enough to pay a membership fee, not even a label on the website or in a catalog. Unfortunately, in this way, today, it is very difficult for an average person to understand what is true and what is false.
Simply visiting a social initiative during a journey, does not make the travel more supportive or responsible by itself. The simple devolution of "a portion of the proceeds" is too vague. It is pure marketing, it is just a business idea and a tendency for reasons other than a solidarity tourism.
An emerging and popular form of tourism is the volunteer tourism for a fee. Those who lends itself to the service, pay a sum for which the organization deals to provide for the "job ", accommodation, meals etc. to the volunteer. Do vacation and do good. A really nice concept. But only if it is done properly and legally.
In Nepal if you want to do a volunteer work, you should have a special visa as a volunteer, to be requested by the local organization on your behalf. Strangely, the vast majority of the volunteers are staying with a tourist visa (the risk of a control is very low). But as a tourist would have prohibited the commitment as a volunteer. The government is providing the visa for volunteering instrument also to know what is being done in the country and thus better guide the projects.
But organizations do not require a visa for you. While certainly most of the volunteers would pay the cost of theyr own pockets. The real problem for organizations is that, in this case, they must make clear to the authorities theyr management and finances. Since non-profit organizations should be non profit-making, it would make transparency in a sector where transparency is important and fundamental, because usually managing public funds.
We believe that an organization that sends volunteers (perhaps against payment as well) without proper information and then illegally, should be called into question and should really to be avoided.
Teach in a school?Consider that you could actually replace a local teacher so that it remains out of work, or even worse, to teach in a private school, where they take money not only by the voluntary, but even by their parents.
Working in an orphanage? So-called "orphanages" opens every day in Nepal, many "orphans" are not true orphans, and it is well known that in Nepal there is a "market" for children to fill them. There are hundreds of orphanages, how do they exist?
So, what to do?
First of all, ask yourself the simple question of why they would want to do volunteer work? It is for the benefit of Nepal or just to make you feel better for having done something good and not the usual "tourist"?
Serious projects do not need your help for one or a few weeks, they need it for at least several months, also to guarantee continuity within the scope of the intervention of the specific project. Do you have this time?
Are you psychologically and professionally competent and have practical experience in the field? Serious organizations consider the psychological impact on children of a teacher who is there only a few weeks.
You want and you know how to give a support to a project or you are looking for something nice to add to your CV? Unfortunately, in Nepal (and indeed elsewhere) be aware of the existing of a large number of scams.
Make sure that the company / organization is serious and certainly do not send money in advance if you are not 100% sure the seriousness of the company / organization chosen for your volunteering.
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