The travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest.
In fact, according to a Statista travel and tourism industry report, the industry contributed over 7.6 trillion dollars US to the global economy in 2016. And the industry is only growing. According to the same report, international tourist arrivals skyrocketed to 1.19 billion in 2015 compared to only 528 million a mere 10 years earlier.
In some ways, these numbers are great. Studies have proven that travel and tourism expands people’s worldview, educates in ways a classroom never could, and even makes travellers healthier. Additionally, many communities around the world depend on tourism as a main or large source of revenue.
And yet, lately the news has been filled with stories of tourists lessening the quality of life for locals, diminishing the sustainability of already fragile ecosystems and disrespecting local culture.
So what gives? Obviously the problem is not tourism itself, but the ways in which tourism is conducted; that is, whether or not it is ethical.
What is an ethical tourist?
Being ethical in relation to a local economy, environment, and people, means being conscious of the consequences of your actions as a tourist and acting appropriately.
Some great ways to be a more ethical tourist:
An easy way to be a more ethical tourist is to be conscious of where you spend your money. Instead of giving your dollars to international conglomerates, opt to spend on mom-and-pop shops, local artisans, and known ethically-conscious companies.
Reconsider your large tour
Using popular tourist destinations in Europe such as Venice, Italy and Dubrovnik, Croatia as examples, the tourism industry has made living in such areas impossible; due in part to large tour groups and cruises.
While Venice boasts a relatively small local population of 265,000, it sees roughly 24 million visitors annually. Likewise, in 2016, 799,916 people came to the small walled-in old town of Dubrovnik from 539 cruises.
In peak seasons, despite the revenue that is generated when tour groups and cruises descend, they produce problems such as overcrowding, and damage of historical buildings.
In fact, in Dubrovnik, officials plan to limit the amount of tourists allowed inside the old town to 8000 at any given time by installing security cameras. They were advised by UNESCO that in order for the town to stay structurally sound, such provisions have to be put into effect. If not, the old town of Dubrovnik risks losing its World Heritage status.
To combat this, opt to visit known tourist hot-spots either off-season, independently opposed to a tour group, or through a small, local tour company.
Being environmentally conscious goes beyond just not being a litterbug, it means being aware of how every single action affects the world around you.
From your mode of transportation, to the tour company you travel with, to taking a shower in a particularly dry country, to buying products made from coral or ivory, everything you do has an impact.
Check out this article for how to be a more eco-conscious traveler.
Just because you have gone on holiday does not mean it’s cool to act like a frat boy on spring break.
Some easy ways to be respectful of locals are:
- Learn the local language – By learning at least a few key phrases of the local language you indirectly tell locals that you are willing to learn more about their culture.
- Restrict your partying – It’s not that you shouldn’t be able to let loose and have a good time abroad, it’s that you should do it mindfully. Don’t be a drunk slob in any place that isn’t a designated club, and keep excessive noise in public areas to a minimum.
- Research customs – Local customs vary from country to country. Look up general expectations such as clothing choices, dining customs, and how to be respectful when haggling.
Wildlife tourism is always a hot-button issue and will always be sure to cause a debate. It’s no secret that any contact with humans will affect animals and their precious eco-systems, but the truth is that Safari’s and Gorilla Trekking aren’t going away any time soon.
Instead of seeking to ban wildlife tourism altogether, it is important for us to use that tourism to help sustain the habitats, and spread awareness regarding endangered animals and the risks they face.
Easy things you can do to help the issue of wildlife sustainability is to avoid buying products made from endangered or wild animals. Additionally, before you book any tour regarding wildlife, do research on the tour company itself, as well as any issues and threats the animals face. Perhaps even consider doing volunteer work with an organization dedicated to animal welfare.
The AirBnb Debate
The short-term AirBnb-style rental model has many benefits: It allows you to stay with locals and get a more in-depth travel experience, it provides a place to stay for any budget, and it allows people to stay in some very funky, off-beat styles of accommodation.
However, because of a lack of mandates and regulations, the AirBnb style of accommodation is having some adverse effects in major tourist hubs. Namely, the fact that many landlords increasingly seem to prefer the short-term rental AirBnb model to providing long-term housing for local tenants. In turn, this drives up the housing markets, thereby making affordable housing difficult to come by in major markets.
Thus, from a tourist perspective, it is important to research the effects of short-term rentals in your destination. Find out whether or not you renting an apartment for a weekend will further take housing away from locals or whether it will in fact bring revenue to your destination.