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Becoming a responsible tourist

Becoming a responsible touristPublished: 09 November 2017

Author: Shilpa Ganatra

If anything's defined the year in travel, it's been the rise in 'overtourism' - who even knew there could be such a thing? The phenomenon comes from the mass growth of the travel market: international arrivals across the globe grew from 25 million in the 1950s to 1.2 billion in 2016. In the last decade alone, the rise in affordable airlines, the emergence of Airbnb helping to alleviate any accommodation shortages, and the rise in cruises has helped push that number up.

The result? We've seen backlash in popular places like Venice, Barcelona and Amsterdam, with locals saying their small streets and cute-as-a-button towns weren't meant for the mass influx of visitors.

The big question is, what to do about it. Answering the call of an extreme few who want to curtail tourism will surely have more disastrous consequences than they expect. Tourism has indeed grown, but that also means more and more people have their livelihood dependent on it. Restricting our visits abroad isn't good for us either; as citizens of the world, it's almost our responsibility to open ourselves up to new cultures and new ways of living.

Perhaps the answer lies in the World Tourism Organization's newly launched "Travel. Enjoy. Respect" campaign. It's a drive to encourage 'sustainable tourism' - in other words, encouraging tourism that slots into the destination of choice, rather than drain it.

The drive doesn't just cover overcrowded places, it also refers to areas like Costa Rica and Mauritius where overtourism can destroy the very reason people come to visit.

So what does it mean for our next trip? Their tips include:

  • Honour your hosts and your common heritage
  • Protect our planet
  • Support the local economy
  • Be an informed traveller
  • Be a respectful traveller

Certainly, they're sound principles which we should have been employing anyway, if we were angelic enough. But now there's no excuse to ignore them. All we need now is a nice weekend break to use as a test case.

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