Did you know that World Tourism Day takes place every year on 27th September? It was set up by the UN’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to raise awareness of tourism’s importance to the international community and also to show how tourism affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide. Looking further ahead, 2017 is International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. So now is a great time to reflect on how we as consumers can influence the tourism industry to become more sustainable.
Tourism has increased vastly over the past few decades. In 1950 there were 25 million international tourists; today there are around 1.2 billion! (ref: UNWTO). It’s fantastic that more of us are discovering new countries and cultures, but we should also consider:
- What impact will large numbers of visitors have on sensitive landscapes?
- What are conditions like for people employed in the tourist industry?
- Can you be sure that the money you spend whilst on holiday ends up in the local economy?
- What are the environmental impacts of increasing air travel and ever larger cruise ships?
UNWTO's Global Code of Ethics for Tourism is one place to start. It includes sections on ‘The Responsible Tourist’, ‘Tips for travellers’ and ‘Sustainable development’.
Another really useful website is the campaigning organisation Tourism Concern. Their site is a great source of information on ethical tourism issues. It has well thought-out answers to travellers’ ethical questions such as ‘Should I ride an elephant?’, ‘Should I haggle for goods?’ and ‘Should I visit countries where human rights are violated?’.
Tourism Concern have recently been raising awareness of ‘Orphanage Tourism’ whereby young, unqualified ‘volunteers’ sign up and pay for placements in ‘orphanages’ in poor countries. These placements have been condemned by Harry Potter author J K Rowling. To make money out of these young Westerners’ willingness to ‘do good’, unscrupulous travel companies have actually set up orphanages where they are not really needed, in some cases separating children unnecessarily from their families.
So if you’re planning a holiday or a ‘gap year’, be sure to use your consumer power for good by choosing to travel as wisely as you can. Ask lots of questions and carefully consider the ethics and environmental issues involved. Hopefully these websites will help you make the most of your trip.
Moira Jenkins, Think Global