Responsible Tourism - Why A Unique Experience Is Better For The Planet by:Gary Sargent
It is no great secret that globally, many internationally recognized tourist sites are being damaged by the increasing influx of tourists. The Mayan temples of Tulum in Mexico are steadily attracting hotel construction and amusement parks as the once quiet fishing community is transformed into a city. Thousands of miles across the globe, the ancient hilltop fort of Jaisalmer in India is straining to bear the demands of 300,000 tourists annually with an antique sewerage system. Once autonomously living, a third of its population now survives on income based on tourism.
In the advancing age of tourism as some agencies shuttle as many people as possible through their package routes, there has never been a better time to take the initiative and get off the beaten track. Why not consider a tailor made trip rather than a group tour? In case you needed a little motivation, consider the following benefits for being one of the only foreigners in town:
1) Less impact on the country and communities involved
A few visitors will be regarded with curiosity as people go about their daily business. One thousand visitors are daily business. To avoid irreversible change to the ways that people live, we should all be trying to remember that we are visitors to other places, not the reason for those places to exist.
2) More unique experiences
Most people probably dream of the romantic solitude of strolling alone down a palm-fringed beach, or wandering in tranquility amongst ancient ruins. Crowds of tourists pulling up in air conditioned buses in search of the perfect photo and browsing through boutiques filled with identical souvenirs don't figure heavily in ideal scenarios.
3) More chance of resources getting to locals
Many large international tour companies tend to keep much of the money that you spend with them and often little finds its way into the local economy. To genuinely bring the benefits of tourism, you should pick an agency that promises to pay local service providers. Agencies based in the country or region you are to visit will of course funnel much more of your cash into the local economy.
4) Not allowing a place to be defined by a tour company
Some large tour operators market locations as a product, based on a mental image. Drinking tea in the shade of the towering sandstone walls of Jaisalmer fort, skimming across the crystal waters of the Yangshuo lakes in China in a motorboat, overlooking the white sand beaches of Tulum with a cold mojito in-hand. None of these images are a true representation of the place; choose an agent that knows the region and the destinations that you are to visit. A company in New York is never goign to be as informed on archeological and cultural sites in Mexico as one based in the region.
So, where do you start with a unique trip? First of all, do your research. think about where you'd like to travel without concentrating too much on specific sites or attractions. Criteria such as indigenous culture, traditions, and flora and fauna can give you a basis without putting you on same path as thousands of other tourists. Once you've got a country in mind consider working with a smaller agency to design a custom tour for your country of choice. They will be able to research options for you away from the crowds and ensure that the impact of your travels remains positive, paying service providers in communities where appropriate.
The more time you spend researching your trip, the more you'll get out of it. Don't be sold on glossy brochure photos, get online and start hunting!
About the author
Gary Sargent is the Founder and Managing Director of the tour companies Escaped to Latin America and Escaped to Peru. He has lived in South America for over 10 years and is passionate about Latino life, people, customs and places. To learn more or to book your next adventure please visit http://www.escapedtolatinamerica.com