Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Ethical Tourism

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In a comment a few months ago, SurplusValue mentioned ethical tourism. It was a word he more or less made up for himself, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

In fact, a lot of thought has been given to ethical tourism. From what I can tell after a very brief look into the topic, there seem to be two basic aspects that the average person will think of when they consider the impact of their tourism: environmental and social.

As vegans, would our view be much different? There might be more things we would boycott and different things we’d help out on, but overall I don’t think there is much difference.

There also seem to be two different types of “ethical tourism”. One is to travel for the purpose of helping out, the other is to travel and have a responsible holiday, supporting the local people without diminishing their natural resources, making smart ecological choices.

Of course on a smaller scale most of us practice the responsible holiday type of ethical tourism as a matter of course. We avoid the zoos and patronize the vegan friendly restaurants. I have written to a city where a local bar had a disgusting “tradition” of offering live goldfish shots, and I explained to the tourism board of that city that such a view of their city made my marathon-race destination decision for me, that I would be going to a different race that weekend and encouraging my friends to do the same.

As it turns out, I wasn’t able to run a marathon at all, but I was not just talking in that letter. I researched what the city had to offer that might bring me there, and then found another city that had a marathon that same weekend; it was pure luck that the other city had a reputation for being sensitive to animal issues and vegan friendly. The time frame was right as well – if I hadn’t ended up with an injury, unable to run for months, I would have been ready for a marathon around that weekend. This means that when I wrote to the city, I was being honest – I would have considered it as a race destination, but because of my strong feelings about the goldfish shot “tradition”, I would have instead chosen a different city, and the weekend that city had their marathon was actually a weekend I would have been running a marathon had my injury allowed it. I have no idea if my letter made a difference, but when a city or a region looks at how they are “marketing” themselves to tourists, these things do matter.

We make the greatest impact if we all make our voices heard. Not just to each other, but to the people who will care that we decided not to give our money to them. Other groups, no greater in number than us, are catered to, probably because they are louder and make their expectations known.

So SurplusValue telling the Kofa NWR managers that their decisions were impacting where he spent his ethical tourism dollars, that was a strong and valid statement to make. Boycotting a park, a region, in protest against decisions they have made or practices they have, that is essentially the same thing that we do by avoiding Sea World and any place we know exploits animals.

There is more we can do that would fall into ethical tourism, I gave only a couple of examples, and I only talked about one of the types of ethical tourism. We think about all of our consumption choices and the ethics of them on a daily basis; our approach to tourism should be no different. If we decide to boycott a city, park, or region, we should let the managers and tourism boards know. Money talks loudly to them, just as it does to companies.

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2 responses to “Ethical Tourism

  1. rich October 25, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    I am glad you posted this, we have talked about this briefly and I think your post just made a decision for me. I was loosely planning a trip to Canada and Labrador and Newfoundland next year and I can’t do it in good conscious. As long as those provinces support and actually promote the seal hunts I can’t spend one cent there.
    I do need to let them know of course.

  2. Deb October 25, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    I’m glad it helped, though it always hurts when we have to give up something we’d been looking forward to. As a next step, research and decide where you will go instead. Make sure they know your tourist dollars will go somewhere, just not to them.

    Everything helps. I know that there is a boycott of all of Canada called for every year when the seal hunts are resumed, but I’m not sure we, as a group, are contacting the relevant provinces and telling them of the money we’re not spending on them. That’s just as important as the boycott itself. In fact, is it a boycott if the boycottee doesn’t know they’re being boycotted?

    Thanks for following your conscience. 🙂

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