In a year when so many things seem to be going wrong, at times, it is hard to see the bigger picture; the one that says that the world being shut down is not forever. But, we really must actively work toward responsible tourism, protecting our people, planet and places.
Tourism is such a huge part of the world economy, that without it, families go hungry and communities who once pulled themselves out of poverty become impoverished again. But, you have a choice when you travel to make a positive impact, it’s called Responsible Tourism.
When you think of people in tourism being affected by Covid-19, you probably think first of the great tour guides you’ve met in your travels, travel agents like myself, flight, cruise ship and hotel staff. Those tourism jobs are just the tip of the iceberg though! With less people traveling:
- There are fewer tourist buses, boats and ferries. This affects jobs for mechanics, maintenance staff, captains and drivers.
- Fewer people staying at hotels means fewer jobs for cleaning and hotel staff, but also indirectly affects the businesses who clean the carpets or windows, replace the mats, do laundry or dry cleaning service or sell furnishings.
- Fewer people exploring, means fewer people visiting rural communities and artisans that rely on tourism. Think of all the tours you’ve done to spice farms, coffee plantations, pineapple plantations, olive grove or lemon farms. Think of the distilleries, rum cake factories, blown glass workshops or weaving workshops you’ve visited. With no tourists, a large chunk of these farmers’ and artisans’ income is now gone.
- Less demand for souvenirs and artisan’s works, so many tourist markets are closed and the small business owners and artisans have no where to sell their goods.
It really is such a difficult situation for so many. But, there is hope for a return to an even better world.
Today, Sept 27th is World Tourism Day. This year’s focus is on Tourism and Rural Development. Tourism is a viable sector for people in rural communities to build businesses and have employment opportunities that help them rise from poverty. But, it is not just about money. The tourism sector provides dignity and equality for many. It provides opportunities for women and youth which, in turn, provides better education for entire families. When you put that all together, it means a better world for all of us.
Please, take a moment today to reflect on your past travels. We ALL need to be more responsible when we travel in the future. If you reduce, reuse and recycle at home and are proud to support local in your community, then all you have to do is take those same principles with you when you travel.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself, or discuss with me, when you are planning your next trip.
- Have you supported Rural Tourism by getting out of the cities and spending times in the countryside in the past? Did you enjoy the experience and feel connected to the locals?
- Have you travelled with a company who takes a stand for Animal Rights, Women’s Equality, No Child Labour, Fair Wages and/or Environmental Action? If you aren’t sure, that’s ok. Commit to asking for this information going forward.
- Have you made a conscious effort to go to a lesser-touristed destination and avoided the over-touristed hot spots? This spreads tourist dollars farther, supports more people and often means better value for your money! We all know the most highly touristed spots are full of tourist-traps!
- Have you purchased souvenirs from the artisans themselves rather than bulk-made souvenirs?
- Have you dined at a local restaurant that buys its food from within 100 kms, reducing the carbon footprint?
- Have you stayed at accommodations that are locally owned & operated?
- Have you done research on your Air BnB / VRBO accommodations to make sure they are properly zoned, owned by a local (not a foreigner) and that families have not been forced to move because of increasing rents to provide tourist accommodation?
- Have you stayed at a restored Heritage building that is locally owned and lovingly restored?
- Have you chosen to go to a smaller, locally owned resort rather than a Chain-resort so that more of your tourist dollars goes back to the local economy instead of to a foreign investor?
- Have you used your spending money wisely to support local businesses, artisans and companies while you are travelling?
- Have you visited a community where they’ve taught you about their culture and heritage?
- Have you donated to a local not for profit organization rather than giving money or candy to children begging on the streets?
- Have you packed responsibly insuring you have no single use plastic? Some countries ban plastic bags with HUGE fines, including zip lock baggies. So, pack your reusable bottle, reusable toiletry bags and a steel straw! Don’t leave any garbage behind in the country you visit.
- Have you chosen to travel one country or area in depth to get to know the culture and the locals better, as well as reducing your carbon footprint by using ground or water transportation rather than flying relatively short distances between destinations?
- Have you made a donation to a Carbon offsetting organization to help mitigate the carbon used on your trip?
If you haven’t done any of these, that’s ok! There is no time like the present to start your journey to becoming a better traveller. If you don’t know where to start, that’s ok too. I’m here to help you be a better traveller going forward.
You don’t have to do all of these things every time you travel, but even if you do some of them, what a difference it will make to the locals in the destinations that you’ve chosen to visit. Start with your next trip and see if you can incorporate some of these great practices. You’ll have the most wonderful trip AND it will be having a positive impact on the people and places you visit, as well as our planet. It’s a win-win-win!
If you are ready to get back out there in the world and are dreaming of where you’d like to go in 2021 or 2022, reach out to me. Let’s set up a time to talk about responsible tourism options that will make your dream vacation just that much more special! A few small changes can make a world of difference.
Happy World Tourism Day!