Written by Rebecca Woolford
Are you ready to confront some tourism truths? To educate yourself on some difficult realities? To go behind the scenes of the industry? To see the power of voting with your wallet when you travel?
I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting to share this with you…
To mark the launch of ‘The Last Tourist’, a hard-hitting documentary by Tyson Sadler and Bruce Poon Tip founder of G-Adventures, I have put together these 5 questions for any and every responsible traveller. (Do you want to know something cool? One of my masterclass students got the opportunity to attend the exclusive premiere in London – see below.)
“Travel is a privilege, and with privilege comes great responsibility”Bruce Poon, Founder of G-Adventures.
1. Where does the majority of my holiday money go?
Tourism leakage is a term everyone would do well to learn more about. Most people believe that the money spent on a holiday ends up in the pockets of the communities and countries they visit. I mean, why wouldn’t it?
This hard-hitting film shares that in Kenya – a popular safari destination – reportedly only 14% of the money from tourism stays within the country, with the remaining 86% jumping out of the country to foreign-owned tour operators, airlines, lodge owners, and already wealthy brands.
And Kenya isn’t the only one. In Fiji, it is estimated that 60% of the money from tourism ends up leaving the country. In India, it’s 40%, and a shocking 80% in the Caribbean. (Reference: Smart Destinations).
2. Is my travel agent or booking platform failing Wildlife?
Who do you entrust to spend your travel money? Because some of the leading travel companies are severely failing wildlife. World animal protection reveals in this report who they are.
Don’t be fooled by the images of happy-looking dolphins. Dolphins or any captive animal for that matter are suffering in silence. It’s pretty simple… If you love dolphins, don’t swim with them. If you love tigers, don’t pose with them.
There is no better first step to take as a responsible, ethical traveller than standing up for animal welfare; by giving the voiceless a voice, and by voting with your wallet with every purchase you make.
Jet2Holidays continues to exploit wildlife for profit.
“Holiday makers have made it clear – they don’t want tour operators selling animal suffering. But the reality is, suffering is still being sold under the guise of entertainment. Who you book your holiday with matters.”Karen Wise, World Animal Protection. Reference Prolific North.
3. What does my holiday say about my values and beliefs?
If you’re reading this article I’m going to go ahead and assume you have a conscience.
From switching to plant-based diets, changing to clean energy providers, or engaging in #NOMOWMAY to help the bees – travel is another key element to consider.
If we are privileged enough to travel and have the disposable income to visit different cultures and places, don’t we have a duty to make it count?
From the accommodation you book to stay in, to the travel agent who gets a commission fee. From the restaurant you choose to visit or the local guide you hire, every purchase sends a clear message about the kind of world you want.
And it’s not about perfectionism, because this is simply impossible.
Start with 2 or 3 areas you are passionate about. Maybe that’s wildlife and engaging in natural, wild encounters only. Perhaps it’s only buying local, seasonal, organic food. This in itself is massive. Make your life easy and explore our trusted and recommended stays here.
“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”Anna Lappe
4. What’s my mindset when exploring a destination? Tourist vs. Guest.
The good news is people’s perception of travel is changing and ‘sustainable travel’ is a growing trend. However, often missing in these healthy conversations is the mindset shift from tourist to guest.
Imagine you are invited to stay with a great friend in another country. When entering their home, do you respect their place and way of life? Clean up after yourself? Listen to them? Ask them for advice on where is best to explore? You’ll most likely identify as a guest in their home, not as a tourist.
So why is it any different when someone invites you to visit their home country?
Dr. Freya Higgins-Desbiolles first introduced me to the concept of redefining tourism by the local community. Although this approach is no guarantee of zero environmental impact, it’s a really good place to start.
“This approach shifts the power equation, that it’s not the tourist and the tourism industry that are demanding things. It is centered on the local communities rights which changes the interactions.”Freya Higgins-Desbiolles
So often local communities are not part of the conversations, decision-making, and planning that define the experience for visitors whether that’s in a city, on a beach, or in a mountain resort.
When local people are in charge of creating and delivering travel experiences, amazing things happen.
Keen to learn more about redefining tourism? Get instant access to a transformative masterclass here.
5. How can I play my part and make a meaningful contribution?
The good news? There are 2 immediate actions you can take.
Firstly, ask yourself these 4 simple questions before booking a trip or speaking to your travel agent.
If you’re a bit more conscious about where you spend your money, you can create wealth distribution by just going on holiday. Tourism is one of the most effective vehicles we have to redistribute wealth and move towards a more equal world.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not comfortable with this fact…
“The world has become extraordinarily unequal: as of 2015, the world’s richest 1% now own more wealth than all the other 99% put together.”Kate Raworth, Author of the Donut of Economics
Discover more insights from Kate’s book in this video.
Secondly, skip your usual show and watch The Last Tourist.
After Rachel decided to take this masterclass, she got the opportunity to attend the exclusive premiere of The Last Tourist by G-Adventures. Here’s what she said…
“Last night I was privileged to have been invited to the premiere of The Last Tourist. This came about thanks to Kiwano and the fabulous sustainable travel masterclass I undertook. It was a documentary film which was very hard-hitting and powerful. I urge anyone with an interest in travel to watch it and maybe think long and hard about your future trips. My passion is wildlife and the film exposed the exploitation of many species for tourist pleasure. It is appalling and I actually had to shield my eyes from parts of the film as it was just too horrific to watch… Thanks so much to Rebecca Woolford for giving me such a fabulous opportunity…”Rachel Tredwell, Tredwell Travel.