In 2012 I was still living in Germany in a difficult phase trying to figure out what I wanted to do in the future. Where to study and especially what. For the summer I was invited to a destination wedding as the maid of honour. It was great to be invited to such a special event but today I am not in touch with the married couple anymore and sometimes wonder how they feel having me as one of the signatories on their marriage papers. Oh well, who knows.
Nonetheless, this was my very last vacation to a resort (so far) and it was the first time I really realised what negative impact tourism can have. We stayed at this beautiful resort with everything you could ask for from lavish meals to infinity pools and amazing private beaches. Back then I thought this is the way to travel and what luxury that was. I am not sure I would do it like this ever again. In a country like Mauritius, which is where the destination wedding was, one does not get to see the negative impacts we tourists are having as long as you stay cooped up in the fake environment of a resort. Throughout my stay in the resort, I thought what a great and wealthy country Mauritius was and only saw the positives.
One day I took a bicycle trip to a viewpoint and first was confused as they drive on the other side which was explained to us was due to former colonisation of the country by the UK. Naive as I was I didn’t think more about it until we just left the resort and I started to see the challenges the country was facing. The poverty was so obvious to see it hurt. I realised how fortunate I was and at first, told myself how I am at least contributing some economic revenue to the country. Nonetheless, seeing how some people’s homes were metal sheds and how I had a room with a terrace bigger than these home, made my heart hurt. After the trip, I talked to some of the staff at the hotel and even though I could tell they didn’t want to talk about it they started explaining more about the situation. Many big hotel chains bring in foreign staff, they pay the locals poorly, import foreign foods and often even get tax reductions as well as exporting all their profits to their home country.
Therefore, a destination often does not get much of the revenue generated by tourists. This shocked me that I was so ignorant about this. I never even considered it before. Years later in my master degree in Tourism Management, I learned about this frequently and I started to understand many of the negative impacts tourism has on the locals, the environment, the culture and much more. The awareness of tourists is still very low and we become blind in our relaxation and hedonic behaviour about the impact we are having. It has since Mauritius, always bothered me that tourism is tainted by this and that we do so little to change it. The past years have seen some changes in behaviour and understanding but we are still far away from perfect. It is a troubling thought for me.
Did this make you think and reconsider some of your choices? Or how do you already contribute positively when travelling? I would be very curious about other opinions and thoughts.