The Retour Foundation (in Dutch: 'stichting Retour") was founded in 1986 to promote what was known then as responsible tourism (REsponsible TOURism). For Retour this is tourism that is in line with the idea of sustainable development, safeguarding the preservation of ecological, social and economic resources needed by future generations.
This idea of tourism over the years has been covered under many headings, e.g. alternative tourism, ethical tourism, acceptable tourism, community based tourism, eco-tourism and/or sustainable tourism. Although in our opinion these semantics can be important, we have not let this wide array of concepts interfere with our vision of what responsible tourism is about. The main thrust of Retour is to promote tourism that contributes to sustainable development with special attention for the empowerment of local communities in tourism destinations. We like to speak of responsible tourism because we think that in its core, it is about people taking responsibility for their role in sustainable tourism.
In the past 25 years we have carried out projects, supported organizations and projects in developing countries and lobbied for sustainable tourism in international fora and developed new ideas, trying to stay up front in the development of ideas leading to a more sustainable tourism. Our approach has been one of building bridges between the different stakeholders involved, but always giving voice to the interests that are the least heard at the tables where the important discussions take place. We have tried to share our work and our opinions through reports, articles and interviews.
What started out in the eighties as a foundation, an NGO, over the past decade has turned into a so-called social entreprise. In a changing playing field we felt a need to adapt to new economic and financial realities and to focus on flexibility. Since our focus has been empowering stakeholders (Youth, elderly and small entrepreneurs) within the economic constraints of our current system, we feel better within the new (although not yet matured) concept of a social entreprise than the somewhat outdated jacket of an NGO.