While tourism has traditionally relied on the environment, today it is increasingly contributing to environmental conservation.

Griffith University Professor of Sustainable Tourism, Susanne Becken, will focus on this evolution of the tourism-environment relationship in her keynote address to the seventh International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations next month.

Taking responsibility for the environmental impacts of tourism is one of five central themes for the 2013 conference, which takes place in Barcelona from October 1-4. Professor Becken, from Griffith’s Tourism, Sport and Service Research Centre, will chair discussions on this key theme.

“Tourism fundamentally relies on the environment, essentials like fresh air, clean water, pristine beaches and rich biodiversity,” she said.

“It often occurs in natural environments. Therefore, minimising negative impacts is absolutely critical and starts with taking responsibility for the environmental impacts of tourism.”

SusanneBeckenProfessor Becken (left), who is attending her third annual Responsible Tourism conference, says it is important to highlight and celebrate examples of tourism contributing to environmental conservation and protection, and to foster similar initiatives.

She also points to the tourism industry’s large carbon footprint.

“It is important to investigate emerging opportunities to combine climate change mitigation with local responsible tourism ventures. We need to extend the efforts we are making at a local level to the global scale and take on the challenges of global environmental changes.

“The Responsible Tourism conference provides an ideal and truly global platform to share lessons and experiences. It attracts an excellent mix of practitioners, policy makers and tourism academics.

“This year’s conference in Barcelona will be particularly interesting as Spain has shown great leadership in implementing responsible tourism, following on from its earlier, well-documented model of mass tourism.”

The 2013 International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations will bring together over 300 professionals from international and intergovernmental organisations and national governments, as well as representatives of tourism and travel companies, to debate the challenges facing destinations seeking to achieve sustainable tourism.

This is the first time this unique annual conference will be held in Europe, and its focus on the Mediterranean holds particular meaning owing to the magnitude, history and characteristics of tourism in this region.