On my recent travels to Turkey I came to realise just how destructive tourism could be to these communities and nature, suddenly I felt so guilty that I too was contributing to it. A large number of tourist attractions around the world are more often than not natural wonders or phenomenon’s. It not only attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year, but is also often the biggest source of revenue for many of the 3rd world or developing countries. Sadly, these people and places are often exploited, partly due to ignorance and partly because they are just so desperate for the income.
The internet can also do a lot of [unintentional] harm. The World Wide Web is full of dreamy eyed travel bloggers and agencies telling us just how wanderful the world is out there. To top it all off, traveling has become somewhat of a culture nowadays so there are tons of special offers and tour groups making it so much more affordable for us laymen.
Another ‘new culture’ that is becoming more and more popular these days is conservation and protection of wild life and indigenous communities. Needless to say, there will always be someone that’s seeks an opportunity to make some easy money, people who will exploit others to make a few extra pennies, more often, these days there are people making all kinds of claims to either protect or conserve in some way and then the opposite turns out to be true. Some of these traps may include:
Tourism and conservation often goes hand in hand and it’s a great way to raise funds and awareness on critical issues in specific areas, but you need to be very careful which ones you support. Countries usually have very specific laws around wild and captivity. I’ve now, more than once, almost found myself in a situation of supporting an institution with a less than favourable reputation in the industry. Unfortunately, there have been some people now that have seen the income potential from such institutions, and there have even been instances where they kidnap the young from their mothers and raise them in the sanctuaries as so called rescued animals, or even start breeding with once rescued animals. This gives the whole industry a bad name, this is, however, not the norm and we should by no means let it discourage us altogether from supporting such institutions.
Animal performance acts
I myself have been to shows where animals are trained to perform certain acts for entertainment purposes when I was younger. Historically, circus acts coming to town or dolphins playing with little red balls were very popular attractions. However, times change, and I think it is important to ask yourself: Is this natural? These animals will spend the rest of their lives in tiny enclosures, sometimes traveling very long distances and forced to practice the same unnatural routines repeatedly.
Feeding and petting of wild animals
Wild animals should only stay in captivity if they were rescued and would not be able to survive in the wild if released again. When masses of people interact with wild animals it often stresses them out, not to mention all the foreign germs we bring with us from wherever we come from. Then there is the fact these animals remain wild and we never know when instincts might kick in and people get seriously injured, or worse… Then, it becomes very easy to justify that the animal should be put down, but when do we turn to ourselves and realise where the error in judgment originated from?
Children should never be used as amusement or a tourist attraction. If you feel the need to contribute and make a difference, then do a legitimately co-ordinated volunteering program. While there are millions of children that needs our time and money, parading for day visitors will not help them at all, it is demeaning and inhumane.
As with anything in life, if you are unsure about a trip you are about to take or an activity you want to take part in, a little research will get you a long way. Read the reviews, compare to other similar trips available, and most important of all trust your instincts, if it’s telling you something is off, it probably is.