Consumerism and Tourism: Outlining Problems & Solutions
As the tourism industry expands, so does its impact on a wide range of factors relating to it. In 2019, the Travel & Tourism sector contributed 10.3% to global GDP according to the world travel and tourism council. In our modern world, the vast majority of commercial travel and tourism is inseparable from contemporary consumerism, primarily because the consumption behaviors of tourists have a great impact on the tourism industry. The industry is entirely dependent on tourists’ consumption; without travelers, there is no tourism.
That’s why, in regards to the tourism industry itself, tourists’ consumption is a very positive thing despite having a negative connotation among most people due to consumption’s core purpose in the consumerist society, which is not to satisfy one’s needs and desires but instead to commodify the consumers i.e., the locals and their culture.
Transportation is a major cause of pollution, especially in developing countries. Resort hotels are remote and/or isolated, resulting in the presence of agencies and airlines transporting tourists to their destinations. Within cities, the more tourists use public transit systems the better it is, nevertheless, not all countries have the necessary infrastructure that can accommodate as many passengers as the tourists they attract.
Furthermore, irresponsible tourism can harm marine life, and the cleanliness of water resources, especially after the re-opening of popular beach locations following the complete shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Marine life is in danger as a result of an overabundance of tourists, where thousands of snorkelers and divers jeopardize coral reefs and the life span of sea creatures.
Consumption goes beyond tangible products; it goes towards animals as well. The world is no stranger to animal exploitation. As a consequence of being stolen from their natural habitats, they’re held captive, drugged, and sedated for our amusement.
According to CNN, small fish, turtles and other amphibians are being sold in Beijing as mobile phone trinkets and key rings.
Irresponsible tourism in less developed countries heavily stresses on exotic locations and peoples and their rustic modes of life. A common practice among tourists in rural areas is that strangers photograph the town’s inhabitants in their natural habitat, in extreme cases, even entering houses uninvitedly. When tourists are in the Nubian town in Aswan, their homes become public property that is open to scrutiny. In a small but significant way, their peace of mind and culture have been disturbed while the tourist is unaware of the intrusiveness of his behavior. Here we have to observe the power of the tourist industry to distort cultural reality.
While travel can generate economic benefits for a local area and provide jobs for those in the tourism industry, negative consequences are inevitable due to over-consumerism, including over-use of resources, abuse of wildlife, and damage to local culture.
Sustainable tourism, as opposed to irresponsible tourism, is all about minimizing environmental harm and working to improve natural and cultural environments. This can be achieved by promoting convenience for sustainable practices, that encourage tourists to respect the surrounding environment, and work towards its conservation.
There is no doubt that people nowadays are adopting a greener mindset by leaning more towards sustainability in all aspects of life, and tourism is no exception. We can use cycling as an example, many tourists ride bikes through cities as more related technologies emerge. For instance, there is a great variety of options when it comes to scooters and bicycles that can be rented via apps. Jump and Lime bicycles pictured below are operated by respective apps helping you to find electric bikes nearby, and navigating these apps is foolproof and as easy to use as 123.
Image Credits: Lime
As people become more aware of the environment and the hazards of environmental neglect, active steps in the right direction are being taken. One thing that’s on the rise nowadays is recycling. Recycling is mainly popular among millennial and Gen-Z travelers owing to growing up with this mentality; that it’s our responsibility to preserve natural resources for ourselves and future generations. Popular vacation spots may receive thousands of visitors, and that means thousands of visitors’ worth of trash, that include tourists’ food containers, plastic bottles, and more non-biodegradable materials. Moving towards sustainable practices, and helping tourists and locals alike, you can often find trash cans that are clearly divided into sections with illustrations just in case it is written in a foreign language.
What better way to explore a place’s culture than to try its local food? Eating locally is good for the environment, especially because it has its roots in sustainability. Here is how eating local food relates to sustainable tourism:
- Local food doesn’t have to travel as far to arrive on your plate, resulting in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping improve our carbon footprint.
- It benefits the local economy, by supporting local farmers and other producers, contributing toward sustainable agriculture and helping sustainable tourism.
Tourism is a wonderful way to experience different lands, and immerse oneself in foreign cultures and ways of life. That said, a sustainable approach is necessary for the protection and conservation of said cultures, for treating them irresponsibly and disrespectfully leads to the degradation of historic landmarks, land & marine species, and peoples’ way of life.