Julien Buot in this interview invites us to join him on a deep dive into the world of responsible tourism in France. Learn about the main actors, organizations and how France as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world is coping, adapting and working towards a more sustainable tourism industry.
- How Julien Buot first got involved in tourism sustainability, and how his view on responsible tourism has changed over the years;
- How the organisation Agir pour un Tourisme Responsable supports the sustainable development of tourism in France;
- The pioneering responsible tour operators and tourism businesses in France;
- Which destinations in France are leading in sustainability;
- 3 bits of advice for destination managers on how to make their destination more inclusive.
Julien, as Director of Agir pour un Tourisme Responsable (ATR) you have been involved in sustainable tourism for several years. Do you remember what brought you to the topic in the first place? And your view/thoughts on tourism sustainability back then?
Just like Obelix, I fell in the cauldron of tourism when I was a child. I’ve had the chance to travel with my parents around Europe, in the US, Peru, Morocco… I have met amazing local guides, who made us discover their country with passion and in complete immersion with local inhabitants. I shared some of these memories with BestGlobe.
In 2001, I wrote a report about ethics in tourism for the French government. I was at that time studying political sciences. Entrusting a student with writing a report on a topic as important as how to control the impacts of a high growth industry was proof that the French administration didn’t care that much. But after all, my youth and innocence added an objective touch to my work. I produced an overview of the numerous organizations already involved in responsible tourism, such as the NGO ECPAT France (committed to the fight against sex tourism involving children) or the tour operator Atalante (creator of the Travellers’ Ethics Charter in 1996 and founder of the ATR association a few years later).
Back then, I had a very simplistic view of sustainable tourism, with good people on one side, and bad people on the other. I had been influenced by reports like “Le carton rouge au tourisme” written by DANTE (an NGO network condemning tourism harmful effects), translated into French by Dora Valayer.
However, I quickly realized how complex this topic was, and how important it was to criticize bad behaviours but also to encourage improvements. Nobody is ever completely guilty or innocent.
Sustainable tourism should be seen as a path leading from “black” to “white”, but going through a very interesting grey “transition” zone.
That’s where certification labels come into play, since they guarantee a specific level of commitment to customers, while encouraging professionals to improve their actions.
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