Not so long ago, the travel industry was worried about too much travel. As destinations around he world broke attendance records year after year, suddenly the negative effects of over tourism were all too clear. Every conference I attended, every news article, every conversation I had with colleagues came back to over tourism – what do we do about it? Small communities were being overrun by busloads of tourists who would pile out, take a few photos, and leave. These communities – from cities like Venice to villages in the Cotswolds and the Isle of Skye, were suffering from a crush of tourists who rarely left a positive impact. They took photos, but what did they leave behind other than miles of traffic jams and a frustrated local population?
Now, only a short time later, we are seeing the devastating effects of under tourism on destinations who rely so heavily on our travel dollars. From Westminster Abbey's "shattering blow" of a 12 million GBP shortfall this year (BBC, 26th July) to the reduced wildlife conservation funding in African nations facing economic fallout and an uncertain future (Nature, 29th July). This is why I was honored to be featured in Barron's about The Future of Travel in 2020 and Beyond this past weekend. The travel industry has been handed a unique opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate – and at Louisa White Travel we have done just that. It is important that the industry does not waste this golden opportunity to come back better than ever before - a conscious comeback that sustainably supports not just our desire to travel and experience the world, but also the people, wildlife, and communities we visit.
Our tours are designed to ensure that our travelers are making a positive impact on the destinations they come to explore. Instead of breezing in and out of villages while staying in a city far away, your vacation dollars are spent in the communities you are visiting – directly supporting the people and places you have come to see. Forget chain hotels on the outskirts of town, you stay in boutique, hand selected properties in prime locations where you can shop the local artisans and eat at restaurants that feature local producers. I will connect you directly with fully vetted local guides and specialists to ensure you get the most out of your time and learn about the local’s perspective.
I also make a point to encourage year-round travel to destinations that typically only have visitors for a short window. A friend of mine used to have a restaurant in the Cotswolds, but he grew frustrated with the business and told me that he can only truly fill his restaurant three months a year. He wanted to provide year-round jobs and support to local producers, but without visitors it proved difficult to do. On top of supporting local businesses year-round, traveling in shoulder seasons and off-seasons can also provide you with perks like lower prices, increased availability, and fewer crowds.
To put it simply, travel must return to support the good work that is done with our vacation dollars.
Our dollars do more than put us up at fancy hotels - they put food on the table of the hotel staff, they provided the new tiles for the roof that leaked at Highclere Castle, they pay the salaries of the park rangers protecting endangered rhinos, and they support the immeasurable small businesses that, in turn, support their own communities.