Now that I have your attention you’ll have to forgive the intensity of my title. This subject is close to my heart as a person who lives in a tourist community but has the privilege to survive with or without tourism if I had to. But there are many locals who can’t so here are three things travellers can do to contribute to the livelihood and prosperity of the communities they visit.
1. Low Seasons
A lot of tourist destinations function on a seasonal basis—some months are good, others are bad. Sometimes in the best of high seasons families can make enough money to survive even the worst low season but more often than not that is not the case. Communities that live off of tourism are vulnerable. A sick child, a particularly bad “high” season, payments or interest on debts incurred in order to survive a low season can severely impact a family’s economic viability. The end result is that families become dependent on an unstable source of income and can get trapped in a cycle of poverty that is difficult to get out of.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Don’t just travel on the high seasons. The upside is that tickets tend to be cheaper and everything will be less crowded. Even if a tourist spot is known for a specific thing, like kiteboarding in Cabarete, armed with a little research and an adventurous spirit, you can discover everything else a place has to offer. Cabarete has a host of fun things to do when there is no wind, like surfing, trekking in the national park, yoga, or exploring any of the beautiful beaches nearby. I’m willing to bet most other places do, too! Which brings me to my next point.
2. All-Inclusive Forms of Tourism
Why anyone would pay money to eat mediocre food, in a gated community, away from anything that signals that you’re in a foreign country is beyond me, but I suppose as we say in Spanish “para los gustos, los colores” or to each his own. The dark side of these sunny all-inclusives is that often tourists never leave them. Money isn’t funneled into local businesses, restaurants, or cultural heritage sites. The handful of jobs generated by these types of vacation spots often aren’t enough to sustain the entire community they’re located in. Locals are barred access to these beaches, and working conditions aren’t always ethical. This kind of tourism is being revealed slowly as having relatively low positive economic impact on the community surrounding these hotels. Click here to read more on the negative impacts of all-inclusive vacations.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Skip the all-inclusive, roll up your sleeves and dig into the internet. Cheap, safe, and locally-inclusive vacations may take a little bit more planning but in the long run they’re more ethical as you can make sure your hard earned money goes to equally hard working folks in the communities you are travelling to. Another benefit is that by stepping out of the gated confines of a resort you’ll actually get to experience the culture and people of that country.
3. It Causes Increased pollution
We know that first world nations create more waste and pollution than third world nations, yet third world countries are often the ones who are facing the dire realities of climate change right now. These are some of the ways that climate change is affecting Latin America. Travelling is inherently not eco-friendly. Think of all the fossil fuels used in those flights! But that doesn’t mean your entire vacation has have the same environmental impact. As described in the above article in The Guardian, tourists tend to create much more waste than local folks. Then they pack up go home, and leave the community to deal with the mess. This is especially difficult to manage in countries without the infrastructure for proper waste management. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Pick up your waste from beaches. Try to carry reusable bottles. Travel like the locals: use mass transportation to travel inside the country rather than taxis whenever possible. Patronize eco-friendly businesses and businesses that are making strides to be more eco-friendly. Use water sparingly especially if there is a drought in the region. Buy local produce rather than imported goods, its cheaper, better for the environment, and better for the community.
These are only a few ways you can make your travel more ethical, sustainable, and eco-friendly so you can contribute to the preservation of the communities we all love to visit. Here are some more.