The Next Trend In Travel Is… Don’t.
Allison Jane Smith
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The article does a good job with putting a light on how travelling impacts local life and environments. But it does the same mistake as other articles when it focuses on the tourist as the creator of problems. A simple example to make the point: when the tourist puts its trash in the can, and the can is emptied into the river then the problem is not the tourist. An increased amount of people in a place make existing problems more visible and an increased living standard acts as an additional multiplier. Ask the Chinese *cough*. So besides the obvious fact that sensible ecosystems and tiny lagoon cities can only take that many people, there’s a second line of problems that exist independently of tourism but is often coming up in its context.

While sometimes problems are really created by tourism, more often they are emphasized or catalyzed by tourism.

Why does it matter to differentiate? Because it leads to different conclusions.

When places sink in trash then that’s because plastic sucks in general and shouldn’t be used to package stuff — especially in areas where it’s hard to recycle plastic. It’s not tourism that brought trash to Bali. It’s general commodity that came alongside modern life. And this adoption of modern life was not introduced but only catalyzed by tourism. Together with an increased dimension of trash that came with a growing amount of visitors, this leads to the wrong conclusion that tourism is at the core of the trash problem and that less tourism would be the solution. It’s not. The trash would stay. Banning plastic and replacing it with packaging that can easily be recycled or composted is the actual solution.

You mentioned Costa Rica in your article and it probably provides one of the best example of how tourism is not the problem but contributes to the solution. Tourism there is used to actively protect nature: Corcovado National Park is one of world’s places with the highest density of life — and also full of natural resources. If it wasn’t for (a limited number of) tourists who visit the park then this natural wonder would likely be a giant mining site. But with the income from tourism, locals are not pressed to exploit resources and opt for a sustainable usage because they want to preserve the park for the next generations.

Obviously, the world needs more of those examples. And less corrupt governments that don’t give a f***. But I doubt that condemning tourism in general will help this cause. I’d rather suggest to name the problems and talk about it with locals and to support their efforts to solve the real issues.