Is it media’s responsibility to raise awareness of the importance of tourism?

That was one of the main topics during the first day discussion at the UNWTO conference on Tourism & Media today. (Thanks for the live streaming!)

Some twitter friends shared their opinions on the topic:

I don’t know if it’s media’s “responsibility,” but I believe the media can help raising awareness of not just the importance of tourism but also responsible tourism. (Although, how effective the media coverage would be is another story.)

Three years ago, when I told my friends that I was going to study sustainable tourism, one pointed out that the two words—sustainable and tourism—are contradictory to each other, as once people start visiting a destination, they cannot help ruin its environment no matter how hard they try not to. Perhaps she is right. People always consume resources and produce wastes. But we can try to reduce its negative impact, I argued.

In a similar context, that was a dilemma to me when I covered travel section for a daily newspaper back in 2006. Once a piece on a travel destination is published, there are often higher chances that more—a lot more—people visit the place; the area gets developed dramatically to accommodate increasing visitors; and the destination loses its charm and in worst scenario, the environment gets damaged.

I’m not the only one. When I met Jonathan Tourtellot, founding director of National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations and geotourism editor of NG Traveler magazine, in 2010, I asked him how he balances the two—the role of informing people of a destination and concerns about the negative impacts the articles may cause. Jonathan said not writing about destinations isn’t an option. Even if he doesn’t, someone will write about it anyway. So instead, he tries to note responsible ways of traveling in his articles, he said.

As the twitter friends argued, it may not be media’s responsibility to raise awareness of the importance of tourism or responsible tourism. It’s just that there are some journalists who feel responsible for what they write about.

+ Other good reads:
Why aren’t more bloggers writing about responsible travel?
Responsible (and local) tourism for travellers