It starts on Monday, February 11, 2013, and challenges you to be attentive. Over the week that follows, it ups the ante, suggesting on each successive day that you be generous (Tuesday), be creative (Wednesday), be empathetic (Thursday) and be curious (Friday), before you reflect back on everything. Best yet, no matter where you live, it’s all free and it’s as local as you want to make it.
It is, of course, Responsible Travel Week 2013, the fifth annual unconference hosted by Planeta.com. Its goal is to help people fall in love with responsible travel, as well as demonstrate how social networking is an easy and inexpensive means of documenting the challenges and successes of developing it.
Incentives for Action and Continuity
Responsible travel is both a hotly debated and fast-growing tourism niche, but one also beset by disillusionment.
As expressed in an essay called ‘What Is the Value of Continuity?’, Ron Mader, the founder of Planeta.com and inspiration behind this week-long call to responsible arms, writes that “For many players in the world of responsible travel and ecotourism, it is easy to be sold on an ideal only to experience frustration, disappointment and in many cases failure. Successful tourism and conservation strategies depend on security and building quality relationships take time.”
One of Responsible Travel Week’s key objectives is therefore to create incentives for continuity. It invites participants to show responsible travel in action. “We’d really like to hear updates on recent tourism conferences and previews of upcoming events that touch upon the core values of responsible travel. Another key objective is to strengthen relationships with existing contacts and make new friends!” reads background information about Responsible Travel Week.
Redo, Re-Imagine and Remix
Accordingly, in 2013, Responsible Travel Week asks everyone to redo, re-imagine and remix. More specifically, at the same time that it reminds everyone to consider ways in which tourism benefits locals and visitors alike, it also incites participants to build on one another’s efforts by remixing media in ways that enlighten and embolden.
It’s all part of a commitment to using the social web for improved communication and collaboration between responsible-travel supporters of things like conscious travel, the local travel movement and ecotourism. This can happen through stories about tourism’s connections to accessibility, biodiversity conservation, indigenous peoples, food, parks and protected areas, volunteering, water cooperation and much much more.
“This year we will be talking up the ‘mainstreaming’ of responsible travel, how it applies to big cities like Las Vegas (USA) and Mexico City, as much as it does to smaller towns like Kiruna (Sweden) and Oaxaca (Mexico),” reports Mader. “I’m also hoping that the concept of the photo safari takes off this year with participants holding them in Mossel Bay (South Africa) and Las Vegas. At zero cost, I cannot imagine a more cost-effective marketing scheme and it’s a great way to make the noble discussion of ‘responsible travel’ part of everyday conversations.”
How Unconferences Work
“The format of RT Week is different: there is no agenda,” says Mader. “This is an unconference. Yes, there are suggested focal points, but no specific timeline of what happens when. Participants set the agenda and interact with each other during the week. If there is face-to-face communication online it will be through recorded chats (Google+ Live Hangouts or similar).”
So instead of maintaining a single information centre, Responsible Travel Week is a dispersed global get-together that relies heavily on a bevy of Web 2.0 channels including blogs, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, Twitter and more.
How to Get Involved
Having reported each year on Responsible Travel Week, The Travel Word is pleased once again to share news of this “crazy idea from 2009 that we could hold an online conversation across multiple platforms,” as Mader describes Responsible Travel Week.
To begin with, “We could use a ‘hashtag’ to aggregate information?” continued Mader, referring to #rtweek2013. “This terminology – wonky indeed – has entered the mainstream and tourism pros are learning that it’s not sufficient to have one website. What’s needed is to extend one’s presence onto the social web – Facebook, Flickr, Google+, TripAdvisor, Twitter – where clients and local colleagues are already hanging out.”
Beyond that, “This event is what you make it, what you learn and what you do. Consider it a wakeup call for a healthier 2013,” one in which you are attentive, creative generous, empathetic and curious… and can showcase it across whatever platforms you like. That is, after all, what responsible travel is all about: treating others the way they wish to be treated.