There's nothing more thrilling than immersing yourself in a new culture and experiencing unforgettable moments surrounded by breathtaking sights. The world is vast, and there are too many memories to make to ignore your wanderlust! But have you ever considered how tourism impacts the places you want to visit?
There's no denying that tourism is a huge money-maker for both developed and developing nations. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, tourism is the largest and fastest-growing sector in the world, making up about 10 percent of the global GDP. Tourism supports a staggering 10 percent of jobs worldwide, and The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) projects that the tourism sector will create more than 122 million jobs within the next decade!
Your tourism dollars matter. But, like everything else in life, how tourism impacts destinations and locals isn't so black and white. While millions of people in nations worldwide rely on tourism to thrive, issues like economic leakage and the invisible burdens of tourism are making it more challenging for vacation hotspots to keep up.
At Cherish, we believe that every travel experience is an opportunity to make a positive impact. We strive to help women have unforgettable experiences while leaving a positive imprint on every place we visit. In this blog, we want to shed some light on how tourism dollars matter more than you might realize. We’ll also share a little of what we’ve learned about the impact of tourism, and include some insights on how you can travel in a more intentional and sustainable way.
Economic Tourism Impact: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
When you visit a new location, your spending can have a ripple effect that benefits many people. Tourists support the local economy when booking accommodations, dining at local eateries, paying for services like tour guides, buying souvenirs, etc. The businesses you support then pay local taxes that can make the area a better place to live for locals.
But are your dollars having the positive impact you want?
The Growing Burdens of Tourism
Tourism can be a strong economic force, but it's not without its hurdles. Many destinations struggle to keep up with the hidden burdens that overtourism presents. Some examples include the costs of updating local infrastructure to accommodate increasing tourist demands and the expenses required to upkeep culturally significant sites and natural resources.
In many locales, one undeniable concern is how tourism impacts property values and housing affordability for locals.
Local governments can take steps to mitigate these burdens, but rapid tourism growth in developing nations often puts tourism industries on shaky ground.
With careful planning and sustainable growth, destination countries can overcome the many possible burdens of tourism. But one issue threatens to make the tourism industry far less beneficial than it should be: Travel leakage.
The ideal scenario is that your travel dollars stay local. What you spend on your vacation should benefit businesses and residents within your destination and beyond. That rippling effect should help people and countries prosper.
But travel leakage prevents that from happening.
In economics, leakage is a phenomenon that occurs when your tourism dollars "leak" out of the local economy, instead benefiting other countries or multinational corporations.
There are two primary ways that leakage can occur. The first is through imports. Host destinations may spend a significant chunk of their tourism revenue importing goods or services to meet tourist standards. For instance, businesses might pay a fortune to import food products not readily available locally. Or, they could import translators or foreign labor.
Whatever the case, tourism dollars go to suppliers providing the imports, benefiting other businesses and countries.
The second form of leakage is export leakage, and you're most likely to see this in developing nations. Developing or least-developed countries (LDCs) often don't have the capital to invest in tourism facilities. So, multinational companies sweep in to build hotels, provide services and establish all-inclusive resorts to meet tourist demands. They may hire some residents to run these facilities, but most tourism dollars go to multinational corporations or foreign economies, not locals.
So, how much is travel leakage affecting host destinations? One UNEP study found that the average leakage rate in developed countries is a mere 10 to 20 percent. But in developing nations and LDCs, it's approximately 50 to 60 percent! That means that for every dollar you spend in a developing country, less than 50 cents stays local. In some places, even less benefits the local economy. The UNWTO says that leakage takes an estimated 80 percent of tourism dollars in the Caribbean region.
Sustainable Tourism: Principles to Live By on Your Travels
Fortunately, you have the power to make intentional travel decisions that minimize leakage and other invisible tourism burdens.
Sustainable tourism is an approach to travel and tourism that seeks to minimize the negative impact on a society and culture, while maximizing the benefits for local communities.
The goal of sustainable tourism is to ensure that travel activities contribute to the well-being of both the destination and its residents, both in the short and long term. Our mission is to empower women through purposeful travel, creating a positive impact and contributing to the economic empowerment of women.
Cherish's commitment to intentional spending aligns with the principles of sustainable tourism. We plan thoughtful itineraries and engage in mindful tourism practices to ensure that our trips are leaving a positive impact.
Here are a few sustainable tourism principles we live by at Cherish and practices you can stick to no matter where your adventures take you.
Quality Over Quantity
If you're a fellow traveler hooked on TikTok, you've probably scrolled past those clips showcasing popular but jam-packed destinations. Whether it's the bustling Trevi Fountain in Italy or the green space at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, the videos depict crowds squeezed shoulder to shoulder. The captions, often laced with humor, convey the challenges of navigating these tourist hotspots.
Yet, beyond the entertainment, these videos shed light on the real strain that large numbers of visitors can impose on a destination. Overtourism can be a problem for host destinations. They degrade sites of cultural importance, overburden local infrastructures and can create tension among locals.
When it comes to tourism, less is actually more. Consider traveling to lesser known locations or at the least, traveling outside of peak seasons. Try to prioritize the quality of your visit and participate in activities that are not only enjoyable, but also benefit the local community.
Fair Income Distribution
When we talk about measuring the success of tourism, it's not just about counting how much money is spent. We also need to look at other things, like how many jobs are created, new small businesses that pop up, and whether local businesses can compete well.
Your tourism dollars can change lives, but not if they end up in the hands of one business or a multinational corporation. All-inclusive resorts and vacation packages can be alluring. But to ensure your tourism impacts locals, you can make meaningful decisions when you're traveling planning to help tourism profits benefit all.
Plan activities that directly support members of the local community. Whether it’s exploring women centric indigenous tribes in Panama or participating in a sacred cacao ceremony with Local women in Costa Rica, plan every activity with intention.
Do your research. By digging in deeper you can find hotels, restaurants, tour guides, and more local businesses that you can support during your vacation.
Supporting local economies is the best way to practice sustainable tourism. Fortunately, there are many ways to go local with every travel decision. Choose locally owned and operated hotels, eat at local restaurants serving traditional foods and shop for souvenirs from local artists and craftspeople.
Going local can significantly reduce travel leakage, and ensures that tourism benefits everyone, especially those who might be struggling financially or belong to marginalized groups.
Respect and Protection
Finally, always strive to protect and respect cultural traditions and identities. Experiencing new ways of life is the most magical part of tourism, and recognizing the beautiful diversity of the world is the biggest reason to travel!
Cherish fully embraces this facet of sustainable tourism, facilitating authentic connections between travelers and the communities we visit. In addition to supporting local, women-led businesses, we lay the foundations of understanding, helping you appreciate unique cultures while enriching the lives of those you connect with. Our goal is not to disrupt or take away from destinations but to uplift, understand, and preserve local ways of life.
Be a Part of the Sustainable Tourism Movement
Some forms of travel can lead to negative tourism impacts on locals, but you don't have to be part of any of it. Through intentional travel, you can have the amazing experiences you've always wanted while making a real, positive impact. The key is to travel with a purpose and be more mindful about where your tourism dollars go. With careful planning and a readiness to sink yourself into the local ways of life, you can leave your mark while going on a journey of self-discovery and growth.
Whether you're ready to explore the beauty of tropical Costa Rica or enjoy inspiring views off the beaten path during a Nordic getaway, Cherish is here to ensure you have the trip of a lifetime and be the positive change you want to see in the world!
Want to learn more about Cherish's Travel Experiences and how you can support women by simply taking a vacation?
Fill out the form below so that a member of our team can reach out to chat with you about upcoming opportunities to travel in a more meaningful and intentional way.