August, vacation time for antonomasia, inspired me for a series of considerations about Travel and Tourism.
I love to travel, most of the people do! This makes us consumers of one of the world’s biggest industries: Tourism. For many countries, tourism is in the top three sources of foreign exchange. Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world with more than 43,2 million tourist arrivals (in 2009). And the Tourism sector produces 12% of the total Italian PIL (2009). As tourist, we may stop over a certain place only once in our life besides our experiences and memories remain with us forever. The effects of our trips may endure just as long, that’s why it’s necessary to travel conscientiously.
When we go on holiday, we spend a lot of money on transport, accommodation, food, fun in general and souvenirs. And although we’d like to think that the majority of our hard earned money is going to support our destination’s local economy, the reality is that most of it never reaches the community we are visiting. Some of our moneys go to airlines headquartered in Europe or United States, and the rest to a hotel owned by a multinational chain. This effect is intensified if we purchase an all-inclusive resort package.
Applying “buy local” practice to dining lodging and touring choices, as well as to souvenir selection, is a good first step. But the possibilities to create green travel are myriad, but even altruistic solutions like carbon-neutral ecoresorts and voluntourism are full of contradictions. Actually, despite all the fuss about going green, the travel industry is seriously straggling behind other behemoth industries to create lasting change. This is partly because the travel industry is a mixture of smaller industries (hotels, cars hire, airlines, publishing, governmental agencies). But partly it’s also because few environmentalists are willing to include a scenario in which we figure out how to help more people travel. This closed mentality is in conflict with the other messages we receive daily – about cooperation, curiosity and understanding of places we’ve never seen. If reaching and maintaining large-scale sustainability requires all of us to think globally, then we must figure out how to protect the mechanisms that get us out into the world.