Local tourism is more than just the latest buzzword, it is a very real and tangible way of travelling that has a positive impact on not only the wider environment, but also the local people in the destinations we visit.
I have long been a huge advocate for independent travel. Backpacking your way around the world has so many benefits that allow you to travel more slowly, spend longer in any given destination and see that place in much more depth than the average tourist who may simply stay in their all inclusive resort and disappear after two weeks.
The benefits to travellers of this type of travel are self explanatory, but what most people don’t realise is that this immersive, deeper type of travel has a huge positive impact on the local populations too.
Tourism has a positive impact.
Rather than a string of international resorts and chain hotels decimating the local environment, travellers who spend time with the locals ensure that it is the local populace and the local businesses that benefit from tourism and make sure that tourism works for the local environment instead of against it.
The money stays with the locals.
A huge part of this positive impact comes from the money. It is not the most romantic of reasons but this is what it boils down to. Instead of eating at large multinational chains, local travel means that travellers will be discovering and frequenting that tiny local eatery just off the beach that locals love and instead of staying in a chain branded hotel they’ll be spending the night in a local guesthouse. With local tourism travellers are putting their hard earned money directly into the hands of the local population instead of allowing large multinational chains to take the lions share. This ends up being a lot cheaper for travellers and more profitable for the local services that help them.
Creating local jobs.
Travellers heading to any given destination means that locals can find good, honest work at fair rates of pay by developing a local tourism industry. Not only are they self reliant by working directly with travellers themselves in terms of providing accommodation, guides and other services, which means they get all of the profit, but local tourism also provides them with an important choice. Instead of trying to earn money in destructive industries such as logging or poaching, locals can find that it is much more profitable to work with travellers and protect those resources instead of exploiting them.
Protecting the environment.
It is becoming a universal truth that through responsible, local travel, the local population become much more invested in the environment and the resources that they know travellers will come to see, and this makes it much more likely they will protect that resource. Once the natural environment and the wildlife in it has a monetary benefit attached and locals are earning a good income from it, then they will want to look after it to protect their income and it makes it much less likely that natural resources and habitats will be decimated by much more destructive industries such as agriculture or logging.
“Better places to live in are better places to visit.”
Ethical travel companies such as Better Places facilitate the connection between travellers and real, local guides to provide genuine experiences far beyond the usual tourist trap organised tour. Using born and bred local experts or ex pat specialists who work with local teams on the ground to design bespoke itineraries that benefit the traveller as well as the locals. This nuanced and personalised way of travelling stops the cookie cutter travel mentality in its tracks, the type of travel that herds busloads of tourists into an wild animals natural environment with no thought of how disruptive it may be, the type of travel that thoughtlessly exploits the environment for tourists pleasure. Local travel with local experts is much better. It allows every traveller to travel deeper, to get away from the traditional tourist trails and discover new and exciting routes and experiences, it allows travellers to discover more about the local people and their culture, to learn more about the landscape and the environment and respects the places they visit.
In an industry that is getting increasingly bland as international chains make every destination look the same, local travel celebrates the uniqueness of local culture and appreciates the vivid differences in character and personality that travel should bring, and it shows locals that these differences are exactly what travellers are looking for. Let the tourist sheep keep their fast food chains and branded hotel rooms that are the same everywhere, real travellers want real local experiences!
It is an unfortunate fact that money talks, and consumer demands and profit margins are what really make a difference in travel and tourism development. By choosing to travel locally with companies and local guides that celebrate responsible, ethical travel, by choosing to support local enterprises and steer clear of international chains, by choosing to work with locals to support and protect the natural environment and the wildlife that live in it, travellers are making a huge difference and are ensuring that travel has a long term positive impact.
Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.
This article was written in partnership with Better Places. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.