There has been some bad press, particularly in Spain, where locals got very vocal about the impact that over tourism is having on their home towns. Mallorca and Barcelona come to mind as two areas that have seen a huge mass tourism boom in recent years and residents have angrily voiced their feelings about the results they witnessed.
I by no means support the way that they handled the situation. Taking their frustration out on tourists and being aggressive, in the hope that people will be deterred from visiting, is not the answer. I am a true believer that we should all travel freely and explore new places. Also, these towns need our tourism, the money we spend while on holiday helps to support local businesses and the overall economy of the area.
A journalist living in Barcelona shares what they saw and heard about the situation in Barcelona. A tourist “invasion” as they call it, seems to be the root of the problem. Plus a rise in accommodation being provided to tourists, such as Airbnb properties, has lead to less apartments for locals to live in. Or they can no longer afford to live there.
As tourists we do need to remember that local people live in the places we visit for just a few hours or a few days. I think there are some things we can do to reduce the overall negative perception of tourism.
Ways that we can all be better tourists and help reduce negative tourism.
The easiest way to reduce negative tourism is to reduce the negative affect we are having on the places that we visit. Being active in conscious travel and sustainable travel are two ways that we can really help.
Conscious and sustainable travel
“Conscious” = Awake, thinking & knowing what is happening around you.
“Sustainable” = Causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue over a long time.
I do feel that big package holiday companies, tour operators and cruise companies need to make some vital changes. But if we as holiday-makers start to implement some small changes ourselves, we will be taking a step in the right direction.
Here are some simple things we can do as individuals to be good tourists…
How to be a good tourist
Let’s behave in the same way that we would in our own home towns. Don’t leave rubbish behind or vandalize in any way. Be aware of what we are wearing in certain places and that our behaviour is always respectful to our surroundings. Pay attention to signs or posters with restrictions like ‘no touching’ or ‘no photos’ and leave things exactly as we found them.
Go with the flow
Many places we go to on holiday run at a different pace to back home. Let’s not fight that and just go with the flow. Don’t get angry it if the crowd is walking slowly down the street, or if the waiter is taking ages to bring our drinks. We are on holiday and will have a better time if we just relax and go with the laid back lifestyle that surrounds us.
Travel out of season
It will really help to spread out tourism if we travel to holiday hotspots throughout the year instead of just during peak season. This stops overcrowding and relieves pressure on the busy attractions and sights. Plus it will make the experience much quieter for us and out of season prices will probably be lower.
Learn some phrases
Locals will really appreciate us attempting to speak their language. Even if it’s just a few key phrases, don’t be afraid to give it a try. A simple phrase book or translation app on our phones will work. Even if the pronunciation isn’t perfect, it will come across to locals much better then us expecting them to speak our language.
Interact with locals
We shouldn’t behave like locals are from another planet. Interact with locals, learn about them and the country we are visiting. Start a conversation with the taxi driver, staff in the hotel, person next to you at the bar. By asking questions we can gain valuable insight and maybe even some local tips.
Be open minded
On holiday we will see, hear and taste things that we don’t get back home, that’s part of the fun. We shouldn’t try to change local customs, traditions or flavours to match what we’re are used to. That will only lead to them losing their local identity. Let’s be open to new experiences and embrace the differences.
Avoid single use items
Try to avoid anything that will be used one time then thrown away, especially if it’s made of plastic. The less we contribute to local landfills, the better it will be for the local environment and the planet in general. Where possible recycle paper, plastics and tin and follow the local rules on rubbish disposal.
Buy local goods
Wherever possible we should buy from a small independent shops or restaurants. These businesses really rely on us to ensure they survive. Let’s try not to buy from our hotel or the big supermarkets. Small things like snacks from a local shop, souvenirs from street stalls and having lunch at a little family run café all make a difference.
Don’t be loud and disruptive
When we are walking by houses or entering a scared place, let’s lower our speaking tone. We should try not to travel in big groups, particularly through narrow streets or in small shops. Breaking into smaller groups where possible will make it easier for us to interact with locals and cause much less disruption.
Go out of the main areas
Look outside of the main areas or the most populated tourist spots for your accommodation. Going a little further a field, maybe a short walk or ride on the local bus will take you to an area of the beaten path. We really don’t need to populate the same holiday spot to enjoy our holiday. You will most likely find some amazing local gems.
Can we reduce negative tourism?
I believe that we can reduce negative tourism. Going on holiday is all about having fun and relaxing but by being more conscious of our behaviour and actions we can be better tourists. Just these little things mentioned above would help a great deal. I would hate to live in a world where beautiful towns, villages or beaches are open only to those who live there.
I hope this article has given you some food for thought about how we can all have less impact on holiday destinations. If we all try to make some small changes maybe we can help make tourism more sustainable.
Do you believe you are a good tourist? Do you have any other good ideas or advice on how we can be better tourists? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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