A Responsible Tourist

It was just an ordinary night in our house. My kids were in bed and my husband was queuing up whatever program we would stream that evening on one of our numerous platforms. 

This particular evening would be different for me. Rather than a mindless show to relax after a hectic day of work, life, and kids – this evening’s selection would forever change me and the course of my business.

Well, that sounds dramatic. That’s because it is.

That evening we watched The Last Tourist, a 2021 documentary on the role tourism unintentionally plays in destroying the things people come to see. It is called overtourism which has an impact on the environment, wildlife, people, and vulnerable communities. 

At first, I was really mad as the documentary seemed to be dumping on the very industry I represent. I agree tourism can commercialize and potentially destroy an area, however, we must work to be responsible travelers. That means we are respectful when traveling, we learn and honor the cultures where we travel, and we give back. This entire premise was one of my motivators to enter this industry. While living in Hawaii I witnessed the over-commercialization of areas and the disrespect for the land and its people. I also felt tourists were missing out on what really makes Hawaii magical. 

The documentary also takes a jab at the Instagram influence. How people just go to a place for a photo. I’d like to pose that that has always been the case, it is just the medium has changed. While it used to be gathering around a slide projector in your living room, it is now on the device in your hand. 

While taking digs at the industry it is also essentially a travel-boosting documentary. The images are amazing and easily conjure up wanderlust. 

And so let it be. It became a major focus shift for my own travels and hopefully the clients I represent. That focus is on sustainable tourism. It is not that this is new to me, I just didn’t have a label and I wasn’t being intentional. 

If you check out the About page on my website I talk about seeing the side of a destination locals love, the hidden gems, the certain something that makes a place magical, the tucked-away places, and quiet moments of discovery. This to me is respectful travel and respectful travel is sustainable travel. 

My goal with my business is to be more intentional. I will be doing research for my clients to know where their travel dollars are going and how it’s being spent. Is the money having a positive impact on that community and its people? I’ll be asking hotels what they are doing to be sustainable (it goes beyond hanging your towel to use again, but that certainly is a start). 

There are three pillars of sustainable travel:

  • Cultural Heritage
  • Environmental
  • Economic

I’ll share more on this in the next writing. In the meantime, I encourage you to watch the film and have your eyes opened (I’ll warn you – the scenes with the elephants are horrific).

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