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Is Tourism Sustainable?

Updated on February 18, 2018
elayne001 profile image

Ruth, a.k.a. Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, Utah. She married a Polynesian and has had amazing travel experiences.


Is it Sustainable?

Tourism has been the world's largest and fastest-growing industry as of late. It has been estimated that by 2020, 1.6 billion people will travel each year. Collectively they will spend more than two trillion USD. Is your country popular with tourists? I know my country is as well as my state of Utah. We have so much to see and sports to enjoy. Having traveled to Scotland, China, Egypt, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, and most of the South Pacific including Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, as well as New Zealand and Australia. I personally know there is so much to see and explore in the world.

My Dreams

I have dreams of seeing Abu Dhabi, England, and many more places. I feel very fortunate to have had such wonderful experiences. I know I have gained so much from traveling and getting to know the customs, lifestyle, cuisine, and traditions in these different places. Now that I am older, it is getting a bit more difficult to adjust to the time zones, jet lag, economy class seating and the like, but I still have the travel bug. We have planned a cruise to Alaska in the Spring, and I hope my current vertigo and balance issue will allow me to go.

Travel Changes

More and more young people are now traveling worldwide. They make up 20% of all international tourists. Interestingly, spending leisure time on an unspoiled, idyllic beach is no longer the most popular goal of travelers. These days, young people choose to travel to gain experience. They often travel to improve their resume, learn a language and improve their employability for when they return home. Many new jobs require travel experience, knowing more than one language, cultural knowledge and international social etiquette.

What is the reason you travel?

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Personal photo taken in Hawaii REK
Personal photo taken in Hawaii REK

What about the locals?

However justifiable these reasons may seem, local people do not always share the same enthusiasm as the travelers. You may think tourism is a win-win situation. Job for the locals and fun for the tourists, but there is some harm that can result from tourism.

Hysteria for traveling has harmed local people worldwide who have had to cope with the relentless waves of tourists. The visitors stay in luxurious hotels with showers and amenities in every room, while the locals might have only one tap in their whole village.

When you travel do you get to know the locals and have you asked them how they feel about the tourists? When we lived in Hawaii, there is a sovereignty movement going on against mainland Americans because they blame them for taking over their kingdom and keeping their Queen captive in her own palace. It takes living in Hawaii a few years to really come to grips that Hawaii was forced into being a state of America. We actually apologized for the takeover a few years ago. And, there is a song written about this very thing:

Big Yellow TaxiCounting CrowsThey paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spotDon't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lotThey took all the trees
And put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half to seem 'emNo no no
Don't it always seem to go,
That you don't know what you've got
Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lotHey farmer farmer
Put away the DDT
I don't care about spots on my apples
Leave me the birds and the bees
Please!Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Hey, now they paved paradise
To put up a parking lot
Why not?

Joni Mitchell received her inspiration for “Big Yellow Taxi” on a trip to Hawaii. She was looking out of her hotel window at the magnificent Pacific scenery and then shifted her gaze downward to find a parking lot. The natural beauty of Hawaii had been rudely interrupted by a slab of pavement. The line “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” comes directly from this experience. The song also makes reference to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu. As the lyrics go “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot / With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot.” The so-called “pink hotel” referred to in the lyrics is thought to be the aforementioned Royal Hawaiian. This coral-colored building is set amidst serene gardens abundant in natural flora. Also included in “Big Yellow Taxi” are the lyrics “They took all the trees / Put ‘em in tree museum / And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ‘em.” With these lines, Joni is referring to the Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu. Foster Botanical Garden is home to hundreds of species of endangered Hawaiian and other exotic plants. The mission of the garden is to plan, develop, curate, maintain and study documented collections of tropical plants in an aesthetic setting for the purposes of conservation, botany, horticulture, education, and recreation. While it is very important to teach people about the natural flora of Hawaii, it is a shame that they have to be kept in such a “tree museum” and are not able to be appreciated in their natural settings.

Garbage City

When we were in Egypt, it was great to see The Pyramids, float down The Nile, and go to the Museum, but the people were so poor that I could barely walk a few feet without being harassed by a sad soul trying to sell me his souvenirs. Because we were staying with someone who lived there, we were taken to a place called "Garbage City", where the people literally gather the trash and make a living off of it. It was a rude awakening for me and I tried hard to put it out of my mind, but never could. There is a McDonald's that delivers right across from ancient ruins.

Personal photo from Egypt REK
Personal photo from Egypt REK

Lost Profits

Water access is not the only problem local people face from tourism. There is also pollution, garbage and crime which come with tourists. In some places, the locals are evicted from their homes and land to make way for new hotels and resorts. The hotels are usually owned by foreign investors, so most of the profits from tourists leave the country, and the locals have to bear the costs. Do you think this situation is fair to local people?

For many poor countries, tourism seems to be the only option for future economic development. If something isn't done, tourism will become the victim of its own affection. It will exploit a country and then maybe move somewhere else. Do you think that tourism will keep destroying beautiful natural places? Has it affected where you live?

© 2017 Elayne


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