The Last Tourist Explores Both the Negative and Positive Aspects of World Travel
EcoTourism is a bit of an oxymoron. How can you be environmentally conscious while actively travelling, shopping, and consuming? To be blunt, I don’t believe there is a perfect, net-zero way to approach tourism and vacation travelling—unless your mode of transport is a bicycle and your lodging is a green-roofed bio-pod. However, there certainly are steps that we can all take to turn tourism into a force for good. Travel can be used to support and potentially even uplift the host communities. And that is what the new documentary The Last Tourist examines.
I was invited to the Toronto premier of this thought-provoking film to see it first-hand on the big screen. The crowd was a mix of media and tourism stakeholders, which I thought was smart. These knowledge holders are often the gateway for many into the world of travel. Equipping them with insights about more ethical and considerate travel options allows them to pass that information on to consumers looking to travel. The Last Tourist also points a direct spotlight on the unsavoury and often exploitative aspects of mass tourism: animal abuse, environment decay, and even human rights abuse.
The main takeaway of the film is positive though: tourism is a powerful industry that can be harnessed in a way that creates shared value for both travellers and host communities while preserving the places and natural resources we treasure most. But those choices lie directly at the feet of those taking the trips and making the purchasing decisions. To further underline that point, during the Q and A session following the showing, several individuals from the tourism industry took to the mic about this. They expressed concern about the lack of demand for EcoTourism and how even well-meaning travellers fall for classic tourist traps without realizing the devastating consequences of supporting them.
Here are some things to consider if you are ready to become a more conscious world traveler.
Be Curious and Embrace Being Humbled
I think many people’s natural reaction when they see or hear something uncomfortable is to not engage. And I’m guilty of that myself! But you shouldn’t turn away from events or thoughts that are humbling. Travel can be an eye-opening experience to all sorts of wonderful cultures, foods, traditions, and arts. But visiting a more impoverished area and expecting the same 5-star service as downtown Manhattan is, well… extremely out of touch. And you’re also robbing yourself of the chance to experience something different. Give yourself the opportunity to be both humbled and awed by how other people live, work, and celebrate in the community that you are a guest in. Ask questions and be curious about the surrounding culture. Knowledge and authentic experiences are the best souvenirs.
Vote With Your Dollar
I’ve been living by the motto “vote with your dollar” for a few decades now. (Can I take just a smidgen of credit for the increase in vegan food at supermarkets? I did buy a lot of those horrible early incarnations of vegan cheese in my early 20s.) This same concept applies when you travel. Where you spend money is exactly where future resources will be routed. Look for hotels that are actively reducing waste or that feature the work of local artisans. And for ***s sake, don’t support animal sideshows of any kind! (Didn’t we all watch Tiger King?) Put your money towards the type of future you’d like to see. Think holistically about what it is that you want your trip to be. Consider what type of impact your visit may have on the place you are visiting. Look for ethical, green, or fair trade options wherever possible.
Remember that when you choose to support local or eco-businesses, you’re aren’t just directing your money towards a better outlet. You’re also changing how tourism is structured in that community. Meaning you can help shift tourism from something that is destructive into something that can be directly beneficial. The key is to be conscious about what you’re funding with your visit.
While The Last Tourist didn’t touch on this, I do think Carbon offsetting is worth considering. Most types of vacation travelling involve huge amounts of carbon emissions and pollution. If you’re taking a plane, cruise ship, or even a gas-powered Uber during your trip, then your form of transportation is releasing heaps of carbon dioxide! Many airlines offer carbon offsetting now when you purchase tickets. You can also look into organizations like Sustainable Travel to compensate for the pollution created during travel.
Find More Ideas in The Last Tourist
Catch some insightful interviews from activists like Dr Jane Goodall, travel industry thought-leaders, and a select group of change-makers in The Last Tourist. The documentary is already available on Apple TV and other streaming services in both Canada and the US, with plans to expand to other countries very soon.
Shop My Ethical Look
Here are the ethically-made and vegan pieces that I wore to the film premiere: