With the weather heating up, swimsuits hitting the stores, and semesters wrapping up, summer is clearly arriving. Thus, it’s time to start planning vacation and sunny getaways to our favorite locations!
While some may argue that an important controversy facing vacationing today is whether an all-inclusive resort is truly “all-inclusive” or if you end up with a bunch fees at the end of your trip, there are a much larger structural issues that surround the current culture of vacationing.
Therefore, when planning your travels this warm season, it is crucial to take a couple steps to ensure that your vacation is enjoyable, responsible and sustainable.
1) Focus on environmentally sustainable tourism.
Tourism often creates a variety of detrimental environmental consequences. This often includes destroying the natural habitats of hundreds of rare wildlife through including pollution in coastal areas and deforestation in order to build large vacation centers. Cruise ships and especially resorts are notorious for creating these environmental problems, as they are often placed in environments that force the relocation of wildlife from their natural habitats
Instead, this vacation season look for lodging that promotes sustainability, such as use of recycled water, compostable options and that uses alternative sources of energy in order to minimize your carbon footprint. Engage in activities that promote conservation, rather than overwhelm current ecosystems. When scuba diving, don’t disturb natural reefs and when hiking through the redwoods stay on the designated paths and take nothing but memories with you.
2) Understand that tourism creates economic development focused on tourists’ demands rather than local demands
Tourism does promote infrastructure in many locations, as well as the development of specified sectors, such as hospitality. However, it is crucial to note that such sectors are unsustainable without the continued growth of tourism and this growth causes local economies to be heavily dependent on external tourism markets.
In locations that advertise their environment as a basis for tourism this is especially dangerous because one natural disaster could destroy this economy all together, and lead to drastic financial struggles for the individuals living within that economy.
Moreover, some may argue that tourism is a new extension of globalization that standardizes culture and eliminates diversity. As consumers, we have the ability to opt out of such imported souvenirs and buy locally based products. This leads to the final point…
3) Stay local
One of the best solutions to a positive vacation (in terms of your well-being, your wallet’s well- being and the environment’s well-being) is to stay local.
This means that even if you plan to travel to touristy locations, stay in local accommodations. Stay out of the “tourist trap” parts of the city and meet with the locals and engage in true cultural exchange. Airbnb and Couchsurfing are to great options to stay where locals stay and even make a couple friends in the process.
Eat local food rather than comfortable American food, whose ingredients are most likely not in accord with local farming and are often supplied through corporate chain stores undermining local family stores. There is so much wonderful food out there, it’s worth it to step outside your comfort zone and try something new!
Most importantly, avoid commercializing the culture that you are experiencing. Part of visiting and experiencing a new culture, is giving the utmost respect as an outsider. When you commercialize a culture, you undermine spiritual religious symbols and fail to understand the importance of traditions, dances, or clothes to that specific culture.
So, where are you planning on going this summer?