An Eye-Opener or just another Story about the Ugly Side of Tourism?
Many places in the world rely heavily on tourism as a key source of income and employment. Unfortunately, tourism can also be a source of problems, especially if it is not managed well. With international tourism on the rise, terms like responsible, sustainable, Eco, ethical, green, volunteer, etc. have become a trend in travel, creating an enlightened sense of responsibility while abroad. In reality, there is still a downside to these types of tourism. The places you’re visiting, no matter how magical they may seem, have residents who live there all year round, and they, the businesses, environment, animals, everything, are all affected by your trip. Instead of telling you about places to travel to, my own travel experiences, or sharing some incredible travel inspiration content with you, I would like to make you a little more conscious about the consequences of your vacation with this post. Just some food for thought on a regular Tuesday.
In my opinion, the environment and local inhabitants are suffering the most. Tourism can often cause environmental damage with risks like pollution, erosion, and the loss of natural habitats. Although some money might be put to good use in preserving environments, tourism does put burdens on natural resources and often promotes over-consumption and unfair allocations of resources in places where resources are already limited. Even if you behave responsibly, damage will be caused.
Think about the ancient buildings, monuments, and temples, that often struggle to cope with increased traffic or about the reefs and other natural tourist attractions that suffer permanent damage. We nowadays want to explore off the beaten path where Instagram pictures are. As a result, gems like Ko Phi Phi, Thailand, and Coral Island, Australia have seen a massive rise in foreign visitors and are being overdeveloped and even closed to the public.
And did you know that more than 550,000 animals suffer every day from harmful tourist attractions? Most tourists are completely unaware of this and do not know that most of these animals are mistreated or live in horrible situations. This post will introduce you to 15 harmful tourist attractions to avoid during your vacation.
Also the commercialization of culture can undermine the soul of a tourist destination. Think about how local traditions, that have a rich cultural heritage, are reduced to wearing costumes and putting on acts for the tourists in return for money. If you really want to experience a local tradition or culture, interact with the locals instead and wander of the beaten path. I mean, by just visiting a place or cultural show, you don’t really get to know the culture. Learning about people and culture takes effort. Read our post, on how to meet locals during your trip.
The desire for greater good, social and environmental sustainability has entered the mainstream with tourists wanting experiences that are authentic, unique and make a positive impact. Resulting in organizations and regulations popping up in hopes to protect the environmental integrity, social justice, and economic development. Public conscious has seen a rise in awareness of the impacts of mass tourism as it relates to global warming and mass tourism. Although these organizations and regulations were created with good intentions and many creating positive changes in the communities they serve, I also believe that some organizations are pushing their own values and priorities onto vulnerable groups. When you travel to ‘local communities’, to ‘tribes’, do ‘ecological or ethical tours’, or buy ‘fair-trade’ products, please make sure that these touristic activities are truly helpful and wanted by the local inhabitants. Make sure the resources, and money are sustainable and go to the locals. Unfortunately, some travel companies around the world see new opportunities and are taking advantage of people’s willingness to spend more for the prospect of environmental- and cultural protection. Of course, you cannot always check this accordingly, but I already would be happy if you consider these things on your next trip on the first place. Traveling with non-profit organizations, like Maya Traditions Foundation (yes, the one where I did my internship), is a way to be helpful and to rescue, preserve, and promote culture or nature.
I hope this article helps you to be more conscious and mindful when traveling. This month I will share 10 more tips in a new post on how you could travel with less impact! Thank you for reading!