An Overview

The industry has long proclaimed that tourism has the potential to address inequality, poverty, and environmental problems in both the developed and the developing world.

Whilst many tourism-related organisations and NGOs are doing commendable work towards that goal, their modest progress over the past 30 years has been overshadowed by the exponential growth and negative impacts of mass tourism.

The RTA (Responsible Tourism Alliance) contends that the industry’s prevailing shareholder profit-driven, commission-based distribution model hinders rather than helps the development of an equitable tourism industry that would benefit the host countries & destinations tremendously:

  • It denies the host destinations, and the stakeholders in them, the level playing field that would allow them fair market access, and an equitable share of the opportunities and revenue that tourism offers.
  • It is effectively a monopoly, that exerts far too much control over the distribution of guests to tourism destinations, and on the businesses within them. It takes too great a share of the profits, most of which (70-80%) are ‘leaked’ back out of the host country.
  • It contributes little if anything in local taxes, putting the cost of infrastructure development, destination management, and environmental protection onto the local taxpayer.
  • The combination of high commissions, reduced visitor numbers, the lack of market access and promotion for *SMMEs it does not represent, exacerbated by the lack of tax revenue needed to fund development and training - will make a post-Covid-19 recovery extremely difficult.   

The RTA business model provides an alternative option for all those in the industry keen to adopt a more responsible model for tourism. Importantly it includes the 7 in 10 SMMEs that are not (or poorly) represented by mainstream tourism, simply because they do not accommodate the same volume or generate the same profits margins that are available to the middlemen from selling standard 'mainstream tourism' products.

The businesses supported by the RTA include those run by both individual entrepreneurs and communities alike, and provide the products and services that will appeal to visitors in the post pandemic era.

The model is a hybrid between a development agency and a tour agent. As a development agent it is tasked to identify potential products and services, introduce or improve service standards and best practices, and assist in the development and upload of their online marketing materials. That role extends to assisting with the selection and development on non-tourism reliant 2nd revenue streams where possible.

As a tour operator it is tasked to facilitate enquiries and bookings between its RTA Ambassadors and RTA Business Partners, many of whom may lack the language skills or resources to respond promptly to direct enquiries and would benefit from assistance in that area.

It provides an online advertising platform and non-commission-based booking channel where each party involved charges a fair and transparent fee based on their own input. It is designed to:  

  • Ensure equitable opportunity and revenue share for our membership of tourism *SMMEs operating in compliance with our recommended service standards and responsible tourism best practices.
  • Have a multiplier effect in the local economy, increase the tax base, and reduce overtourism to mass popular attractions by expanding the tourism footprint into the outlying areas.
  • Provide our membership of responsible tourists access to a wide range of unique and rewarding travel experiences at fair prices offered by those who are responsible tourism compliant. 
  • Collaborate with its development partners and others, sharing resources to increase our impact, expand the benefits, and reduce costs in support of our common goals.

The social enterprise driven model that includes member donor funding is the key to developing responsible tourism destinations with a broad and sustainable marketing appeal based on their diversity of travel experiences that showcase the local customs, culture, lifestyle, and environment. 

The socio-economic research requirements of our partner VWB, and the stakeholder reporting protocols followed by the RTAs business partners are essential to ensuring that the greater RTA community have a platform for their voices and a say in planning the direction and development their tourism industry.

Research - The Problems & Solutions section offers a more detailed explanation of the points stated above, along with citations to the 3rd party research that supports them.

*SMMEs – Small, Medium & Micro Enterprises.