The travel and tourism industry can indeed contribute to problems like environmental degradation as well as upholding values like consumerism or cultural stereotyping and commodification. There is, however, another side to the coin: mindful and purposeful travel can contribute positively to the world. It can be considered as a tool to uplift those around us and a way to expand your horizons.
Local vs Corporations & Chains
When travellers choose to support locally-owned businesses in a destination rather than large international chains, more of their money stays in the destination community and ends up directly benefiting local people. If spent in the right places, your tourist dollars could go towards contributing to local infrastructure, education and quality of life.
A great way to do this is to buy souvenirs and handicrafts from local artists rather than those that were made abroad or mass-produced. You can also choose to eat in locally-owned restaurants that serve food from nearby farms, thereby supporting the restaurant owners as well as farmers. This may require research in advance but will help you make the most impact.
Tourism provides around 300 million people with employment globally (approx. 1 in 10 jobs!) Jobs in the sector can be life-changing and fulfilling, so it's especially important to support those who own their own businesses and hire local workers such as in locally-owned hotels, eateries and stores.
With the rise of ecotourism, local authorities in a destination may experience greater incentive to preserve natural areas and protect them for generations to come. They want to benefit from the money brought by tourists, and tourists come to see nature. If this nature is invested in and properly protected from over-tourism, it can be a win-win situation where local land is preserved for future generations.
Development & Infrastructure
Local governments sometimes decide to invest in tourism by creating infrastructure that also benefits the host community. This can include airports, roads, bridges, etc. While you as a traveller enjoy access to different sites or parts of the country, locals can experience an increased quality of life from these structures.
Broaden Your Horizons
Travelling can be a formative experience in your personal development. You don’t have to be big on adventurous tourist activities like bungee jumping or white water rafting. Even simple actions like exploring a new place, taking care of yourself, budgeting your trip, and being so enamoured by all the new sights and sounds around you will help shape you into a stronger and more curious version of yourself.
Visiting parts of the world you haven’t seen before can introduce you to new types of people and different ways of life. Not only will you have fun, but you may return home with a different outlook and increased cultural awareness.
Strengthen Relationships & Create New Bonds
Travelling is a great way to meet new people and make new friends. Whether it’s meeting other guests at your hostel or getting to know the people in your tour group, you will always have something in common with other travellers! After all, you’re in the same place at the same time.
Travelling with existing friends is also an important tool in strengthening these relationships. By going on adventures and getting out of your comfort zones together, you’ll create strong bonds and memories that will last a lifetime.
Connecting with local people is one of the most impactful aspects of travelling, listening to opinions that may differ from your own and hearing stories and customs from other cultures can change the way you see things. Don't just stick to tourist hang-outs, meet local people in organic ways by learning the language, striking up a conversation or taking a class.
Get in Touch with Nature
For those who live in urban areas, getting away from it all and being one with nature can be difficult. Travel can allow you to consciously set aside time to be immersed in nature and to connect with the planet in meaningful ways. It’s always good to have a deep appreciation for the natural environment so that we are motivated to protect it.
Rediscover Your Roots
For members of diaspora communities, travel can provide the opportunity to reconnect to your family’s culture, traditions, and values. Whether it’s your first or fifteenth time visiting the place of your family’s origin, it can be a meaningful and powerful experience.
Community-based tourism and models of tourism that are holistic can be a force for good. It's up to travellers to drive this change by considering how we can travel responsibly.
Post written by Eilish Sibalis