I’ve been blessed with the means to travel a fair bit by the age of 23. I’ve traveled through 5 continents. You can call me a true tourist at the core, with a camera in one hand and an itinerary in the other. I’ve been to rich and poor, and sadly I must admit that the best vacations I’ve taken were in the Global South, the third world. For me, the Panamean beaches are unmatched by any other, and the spicy Dominican cuisine is the best in its class. Quite ignorantly, I have been perfectly happy with these lavish vacations, and I have had no issues with such things until I took 301HUM, a globalization and development course.
We had to choose topics which affected the development of the Global South. Of course, the girl who loves to travel had to get tourism as a topic. I have to admit, I was pissed of when I started my research on tourism! What a complete scam! Anyway, without pasting my research essay, here are some things that I discovered:
1. Tourism’s exploitation of the labour force because of its low wages, excessive hours and duties (e.g. in the case of cruise line employees). Also, in many developing countries there is a lack of possibilities for advancement to senior positions. And now that I come to think of it, locals never held senior positions at the resorts I’ve visited.
2. Leakage, which is the foreign and outside control of the industry seeing a high proportion of the economic benefits, rather than it remaining in the destination.
3. The degradation of the environment through unregulated construction, over-use of resources, pollution, and diversion of often scarce water supplies.
4. Lastly, tourism is disruptive of the culture and way of life of local communities.
My investigations had me feeling ignorant and unethical. I understand that I’m not personally disrupting these places by my visits; however, I don’t believe I want to be involved in such an underhanded industry anymore. An hour of research was all it took to completely alter my attitudes toward the travel and tourism industry. So what now you ask? Well, I will encourage every traveller to research both the external and internal affects of their tourism, keeping in mind that these are our brothers and sisters who are getting the short end of the stick.
Side note, the text used for the course is “Development and Social Change” by Philip McMichael. It’s a brilliant, relevant read on the globalization of the Global South! Highly recommended for sociology students!