So, following my recent kerfuffle with ResponsibleTravel.com over their 'rebellious tourist manifesto' and the harm I believe it does to responsible tourism, the issue has now moved from the theoretical into the practical realm. Following on their weak tea manifesto about what comprises 'rebellion' for travellers (in the spirit of Jost Krippendorf), they have now launched a "brand new column" written by their 'rebellious tourist' (the one who supposedly hacked their site, but was in fact a hoax done for publicity).
Honestly, after a few thousand words on this and many hours spent, my intention had been to let this issue go - I've given up on RT.com being more than another travel agency, albeit a clever one that was out ahead of the pack in seeing the RT movement growing and positioned themselves to profit by it. However, the focus of their first column hits me right where I live and work - Responsible Tourism in South Africa - and they have embarrassed themselves with the content of this supposedly 'rebellious' take on visiting the country as a responsible traveller. It's neither rebellious nor responsible in any remotely meaningful sense of either word.
Secondly, they recommend a visit to the Serengeti, which is in Tanzania and Kenya, also thousands of km's from South Africa.They also include the following line, which is a non-sequitur:
Or you may be thinking about booking a volunteering holiday to an orangutan conservation project only to read that your regular chocolate treat contains unsustainable palm oil and is in fact contributing to the destruction of your favourite animal’s habitat.Orangutans are in Borneo and Sumatra - Indonesia, thousands of km's away. Cacao and palm oil are also in Indonesia, but both are produced in West Africa too, which is at least a few thousand km's closer - but still a few thousand from South Africa.
Thirdly, they recommend 'rebellious' travellers visit Kruger Park, Camps Bay beaches, Boulders Beach for the penguins, Robben Island, the V&A Waterfront, the Cape Winelands - these are the most mainstream travel experiences in South Africa, with nothing RT or rebellious about them. NOTHING.
They do recommend some local food, advise using the train, and mention volunteering (the orangutan non-sequitur aside) - each good suggestions.
However, they also advise against shark cage diving, even though this is a hugely popular activity that brings in a substantial amount of money for marine conservation and there is at present no credible evidence that it has affected the behaviour or environment of the great white sharks. There are even two shark diving operators who are Fair Trade in Tourism accredited, which is bona fide RT. (See the shark cage diving industry analysis done by Responsible Tourism maven, Helen Turnbull, here). Personally, I'm ambivalent about shark cage diving, but there's no justification in slating the entire industry - in fact, there is evidence to the contrary, if anything.
All in all, the RT.com column reflects such overt ignorance of the destination they recommend, and a fundamental lack of credible responsible experiences, that I just couldn't let it pass without comment.
This 'Rebellious Tourist' thing just continues to makes RT.com look bad, and this new column is further support for my argument that RT.com is watering down the general understanding of what RT is and doing harm to the RT movement.