School trips and responsible tourism

425364_562935517083159_452460736_nfoto It-a-cà

This year It-a-cà, the Italian festival for responsible tourism based in Bologna, is at its fifth edition. I decided to take part in it to be contaminated by new ideas and to understand how responsible tourism is developing.

First I think we should explain what responsible tourism is. It was outlined in Cape Town in 2002 and goes beyond sustainable tourism. In fact, not only does contribute to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, but also tries to create connections between tourists and local people and facilitates access for physically challenged people. This means that responsible tourism takes social and economic justice seriously into  consideration.

On Tuesday I participated in a focus group which aimed to create a “Charter for responsible school trips”. Two years ago, some teachers from Bologna who were cooperating with the  COSPE association, began to elaborate  a chart of good practices for  school trips inspired by the principles forwarded by AITR (Italian Association for responsible tourism). The charter is still in progress  and last Tuesday was an opportunity to get the discussion going between teachers, tour operators, social groups, institutions and the citizens. These are some of the main ideas:

  1. School trips should always be a form of responsible tourism as they should be based on mutual enrichment and  respect of  other communities  and cultures.
  2. Responsible tourism doesn’t imply any  destination in particular. Every destination is appropriate for this kind of tourism, because it is mainly a way of travelling. You can travel in a responsible way even in your own area, trying to gain a better insight of it.
  3. A responsible school trip should have a main theme to analyse, for example legality, or the environment. The theme sould be  coherent with the curricula.
  4. The students should take an active part in choosing the theme and  the activities.
  5. In the past, the school trip was seen as an opportunity for the students to see places they would otherwise never visit. Nowadays low cost flights have made travelling possible for a wider number of people, and schools should focus more on the experience  the school trip can offer.
  6. The students should be helped to understand that a school trip is not only a holiday where they can have fun with their classmates in their favourite destinations – i.e. big appealing cities, known worldwide for the entertainment opportunities they offer – but also an opportunity to enhance personal growth.
  7. To foster the choice of a responsible school trip, we could create a national portal to give information and proposals. The portal should be interactive and enable the students to post pictures and ideas about the experience they had. A contest for the best picture, short story, poem or any other form of artistic expression could also be organised. This could be carried out with the help of the institutions, associations and private sponsors.
  8. Once back home, we should stimulate the students to share their experience with the students from the other classes of their school. What they have learned could be transformed into acts of community activism.