My inspiration towards Responsible Tourism
I love to travel. However, when I visit destinations, I’m not interested in eating at chain restaurants or visiting the usual cookie cutter touristy attractions. I like to be immersed in the culture and with the local people in destination. I love indulging in the local cuisine and experiencing the local customs. When not travelling or being a travel consultant, my time is spent volunteering in animal rescue. My volunteer work and love for animals has prompted me to combine my two passions and to do research on the way animals are treated in the tourism industry.
My recent trip to Thailand prompted me to check into some rescues, rehabilitation centers and sanctuaries. A highlight was visiting the Wildlife friends of Thailand Elephant Rescue. Their focus is to rescue Elephants, monkeys, bears and other wildlife that have been in the tourist industry or kept as pets. What a great day that was. I could have spent two weeks there. They do have a volunteer program that I am seriously considering for a future visit. At the end of the day when we left the sanctuary I felt hopeful that we were moving towards a different view on animals in tourism.
On the other end of the scale I also did the tourist thing and visited a Tiger attraction. Before we left I checked tons of reviews. I found mostly good reviews but I was still skeptical so I decided I had to see for myself in order to make an educated decision. This way I would to be able to advise clients in the future. My thought was if I had experienced it I was giving first hand knowledge. I regretted it almost as soon as I walked in. While the tigers seemed to be fed well and looked healthy, their quality of life was very questionable. The tigers that interacted with tourists were completely lifeless as you will see from the picture below. The isolated tigers just paced in their small enclosures. I was heartbroken. This reiterated my belief that wild animals are not for entertainment. I regret paying money for this attraction but now I can express to others how I felt when I was there and maybe discourage others from visiting. This trip completely changed the way I look at travel and made me want to do more.
Upon my return I completed the Good Travels Advisor training with Tourism Cares. I discovered that this is what I was meant to do. I’ve learned so much about how tourism affects destinations, people, animals and the environment. As with my trip to Thailand I’ve noticed that the highlight of most people’s trips are the feel good and authentic experiences. I’ve also realized that most people really do want to experience the destination. There is no better way to experience a destination then to be immersed into the local culture. This is what makes someone a traveler as opposed to a tourist. There are so many ways to do this. It can be as small as visiting a sanctuary or rescue rather than riding an elephant. We can also be cognizant of where we are spending our tourist dollars by buying from local entrepreneurs or utilizing local guides. The list goes on. Tourism has a huge impact on the destinations we visit. Only we as travelers can ensure it that is a good one.
Watch for future blogs on ways to ensure your tourism impact is a positive one. Like our Facebook page to see some options from our preferred partners contributing to Responsible and Sustainable Tourism.
“Responsible Travel is not only better for our world; it’s also more interesting and memorable. Responsible Tourism is the future of Travel.”- Simon Reeve