Are there negative impacts to tourism?

When you travel to less developed countries, you might think that just by being there you’re helping give a better quality of life for the locals. Seems you, we,  could be wrong.

Just $5 of every $100 you spend stays local and  after searching I found the United Nations Environment Programme reference to the negative impacts of tourism here.

NOTE Seems the above  UNEP link is broken or has been removed  see  this one instead about sustainable tourism

Tourism is one of the most powerful change agents on Earth and we consumers must vote with our wallets and support local people with local businesses.”

I blogged about this issue (first published in a newspaper column) some years ago and reprint it here. I’ve also written a small book on the same topic A Love Letter to Malaysian Borneo  – and if you have read it I’d really value a review on Amazon or Goodreads. 🙂

Here’s that column I wrote . . .

What is an eco-tourist? Ecotourism?

Like Asians need rice, Italians love pasta, British their curry, and us Kiwi’s love fish and chips, I need to travel and being a traveller who writes means I get to visit where I want to go to rather than have to go the destination flavour of the month.

This means I’m often in places that are not on the tourist trail. As a slow traveller I can stay longer and get to know people, to absorb the local culture and flavour. This also means that although I don’t always sign up for an eco-tour, I practise many of the principles of ecotourism. But what is ecotourism – a word that’s often thrown around and frequently means nothing.

My understanding of the word and the concepts behind it are that’s it an activity that has minimum impact while providing maximum benefits to the locals.

I believe independent travellers are most likely to be the closest to being real eco travellers. They leave much of their travel money in the country while those who travel on tours often have paid for their whole trip before they leave home – giving very little to the country they are travelling in but adding huge costs – in water, sewerage, rubbish, roads.

Worldwide many places say they are providing an ecotourism experience but is that really so? It seems that as long as it has a nature component many claim it to be eco-friendly. That has not always been my experience.

Life on an Asian marine reserve sounds wonderful right? A great eco experience? Yes the natural sites and walks are fantastic; money spent on food and accommodation does stay with the locals providing it. Unfortunately, the big money is creamed the off the islands in diving lessons given by Europeans who come in for the tourist season then  leave, taking the money with them. Because of the lack of a robust infrastructure, the rubbish – that travellers complain about – is bought to the island by them: water bottles are not refilled, plastic bags and straws are left on the beach.

Have travel agents sold us too narrow views of places to visit? Given us a list of sights we ‘must see’ or activities to take part in? This produces problems all over the world with buses arriving in droves, disgorging visitors and fumes to see wonderful pristine or historic sights.

It reminds me of Lake Louise in Banff, Canada, where I too was a body disgorged from a bus to see the great views. I have proof that I was there – a photo of me sitting alone with the lake and mountains as the backdrop – it looks idyllic. However I know that beside me, waiting for their turn to have the moment recorded, is another busload of chattering travellers.

The problems of being poured into these tourist funnels will continue if we rely on unimaginative travel agents (and of course not all are) and the forceful marketing of those who have invested in areas. While it is more economical for planes and hotels to have us arrive together and stay in the same places it also creates problems for them – not the least is the strong chance of killing the goose that lays the golden egg such as the warning in the child’s story.

This is not a new problem. Read books written years ago and the same complaints are made. Tell others you are going to Bali (or Timbuktu) and immediately you will be told “you should have gone there ten (2, 5, 50 years ago,) before it was discovered.”

So, what can we travellers do?  I don’t know what you will do – what I do is travel slow, travel cheaply, and use local products when I can.

So, by combining the universal codes of pack it in pack it out and take only photos, leave only footprints, along with getting off the well-worn tourist trails means I’m able to enjoy my travels with a clearer conscience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waitangi to Kerikeri, Northland, New Zealand: the road-trip continues

From Waitangi, as the sun rises, through to Kerikeri, my road-trip continues – with a stop in the middle for a luxurious facial treatment on my poor sunburnt, wind burnt face – at Living Nature, one of the worlds very few natural products – natural is a word that’s easy to say and hard to live up to . . .  these folk do! See the photo of me with a honey based product on it – its smelt good too.

I have also visited Rewas Village,  Kemp House and The Stone Store – New Zealand’s OLDEST European building.

No time to write, off for a dinner at the award-winning at FOOD at Wharepuke (find them on Facebook) then out on a night walk with Adventure Puketi and back to sleep in a fabulous eco-cottage in the middle of a subtropical garden . . .  it’s very hard to believe this was bare earth only 18 years ago and now it’s considered on of New Zealand’s Gardens of Significance. See more here at Wharepuke Subtropical Garden then wait for my stories to follow Smile

In the meantime .. a pot pouri of pics

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and some more …

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Stephen Fry, a kakapo, and me

Stephen Fry and I have at least one thing in common: we have both seen the rare kakapo. I saw one at Zealandia (Wellington, NZ) while Stephen, on Codfish Island, (Whenua Hau) watched in amusement as Sirocco, poster boy for his species, attempted to mate with zoologist, and documentary-maker, Mark Carwardine. (see the YouTube clip here )

Behind 8½ kilometres of predator-proof fencing, Te Mara o Tane (the garden of Tane) this flightless visitor has many flocking to see him. One of only 129 left in the world, this fat, native nocturnal parrot is, according to Collins Travellers Guide, Birds of New Zealand is “moss green upperparts, yellowish green underparts” and is “entirely herbivorous, eats fruit, seed, nectar . . .”

Collins Birds of New Zealand

On the moonlit evening we check our bags and enter the sanctuary.  I hear kaka, tui and shags as they settle down for the night.  “Tui are usually the last to stop calling at night and the first to start in the morning’ according to one of my fellow kiwi on this night safari.

It is a privilege to see this rare bird – the heaviest parrot in the world: he was hand raised and unfortunately imprinted on humans, but which now has the advantage of making him available for tours such as this – and changing how other chicks are raised.

Enjoy my photos of this comical bird. (And, if you can, please help with its recovery)

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In this hidden, almost secret valley, kiwi are breeding only 3 kilometres from our parliament – in the heart of our Capital city, a slice of New Zealand is reverting to its pre-human state so, make sure when in New Zealand, visit the world’s first inner city pest-free environment – and it seems Stephen and I have one more thing in common .. we’ve both been to Zealandia!


Te Wao Nui, Auckland Zoos’ latest development & The Kiwi Travel Writer

https://kiwitravelwriter.wordpress.com/2011/08/12/te-wao-nui-auckland-zoo/

check out this fabulous new area at Auckland Zoo, New Zealand. geat for native birds ect .. opens 11th Sept 2011

Te Wao Nui, Auckland Zoos’ latest development

Te Wao Nui,  Auckland Zoos’ latest development opens in one month (Sunday, 11 Sept. 2011) and, one of the benefits of being a travel writer is you can get off the beaten track – or in this case, behind the fenced off area! With my ‘high-vis’ jacket on, I’m taken on a mini tour of the area by Jane Healy who is enthusiastic about the project.   

“Much of the work the zoo has done with native species has taken place behind the scenes. The Archey’s frog, for instance was housed off-display. Now, with Te Wao Nui, people will be able to see them and many more New Zealand native species” she tells me.

Covering one fifth of the Zoo, the area gives locals and tourists a unique experience of New Zealand with over 100 New Zealand native plant species and around 60 different animal species through six habitats’

I cross over the Old Stone Bridge and can see most of the area which is very close to completion and have the birds move in and settle before the public come to see them.   Here is a little of what is saw … in no particular order!

Jane tries to duck from the camera as we enter one of the areas of Te Wao Nui

The Islands area has a large Kauri Dam (originally a working one that has been moved here) and a large aviary where Tuatara, the Campbell Island Teal and Antipodes Island Parakeet, skink and geckos will live.

Wetlands has a large walk-through aviary, backed by a high mock-rock wall,  will hold: native eels, Kotuku, Pied Stilt, Kingfisher, Ducks  such as Shovellers,  Scaup, Grey Teal, and one of my favourites, the Paradise Shelducks.

The Night Forest is a large shed and will house the North Island Brown Kiwi, Ruru, and Short-tailed Bats. Its great people will be able to see these natives up-close, in the middle of our largest city.

On an island like New Zealand, the Coast is highly important. In this area of the zoo, Sea Lion and Fur Seals will be on show, while in the refurbished shore-bird aviary, Little Blue Penguins, White-faced Heron and Spotted Shags will be resident.

The Forest is the old walk through aviary (upgraded and re-fenced) which I well remember as that is where I first saw the beautiful black and tan saddleback (tieke). Evidently, Kokako, Kakariki, Brown Teal and kereru will be just some of our wonderful birds that will live in there.

Waiting for the whio!

As a Cantabrian, I was of course interested in The High Country. This will house the cheeky, and intelligent Kea, and the Blue Duck (Whio) – in its fast flowing ‘mountain stream’. The Whio is a unique and threatened species of waterfowl endemic to New Zealand. It is the only member of its genus and has no close relative anywhere in the world. Curious weka will also be here: a children’s playground is sited here too – a great place for parents to sit and chat while kids burn off some energy and natural surroundings.

I look forward to returning to the zoo to see the birds (and others) in their new, reproduced ‘normal’ native habitat. Te Wao Nui will be an asset to Auckland Zoo with its current and future conservation efforts on behalf of New Zealand’s native species.

what is eco travel? green or greenwash sometimes?

I dont cycle from place to place but often hire one in the city or village I'm staying in - a great way to get around ... and leave some money locally.

Not everyone can travel. Living in New Zealand means we have a better chance than many. We have a far higher rate of people with passports than Americans for example. Also, countries that are poorer are much more likely to be visited than to produce travellers.

I’m a travelophile. Like Asians need rice, Italians pasta, British curry, Kiwi’s fish and chips: I need to travel. When I travel I feel good and being a traveller who writes means I get to visit where I want to go to and not need to go the flavour of the month.

This also means I often arrive in places that are not on the tourist trail. I get to be a cultural tourist in that I stay longer in places and get to know people; absorb the local flavour.

This means that although I don’t often sign up for an eco-tour, I practise many of the principles of ecotourism. But what is ecotourism?

My understanding of the word and the concepts behind it are, very briefly, that’s it an activity that has least impact while providing greatest benefits.

Independent travellers are the ones most likely be the closest to being real eco travellers. They leave much of their travel money in the country– those who travel on tours often have paid for their whole trip before they leave home- giving very little to the country they are travelling in but adding huge costs – in water, sewerage, rubbish, roads.

Worldwide many places say they are providing an ecotourism experience but is that really so? It seems that as long as it has a nature component many claim it to be eco-friendly. That has not always been my experience.

Life on a marine reserve sounds wonderful right? A great eco experience? Yes the natural sights ( and sites!) and walks are fantastic; money spent on food and accommodation does stay with the locals providing it. Unfortunately, the big money is creamed the off the islands in diving lessons given by Europeans who come in for the tourist season then leave, taking the money with them. Because of the lack of a robust infrastructure, the rubbish – that travellers complain about – is bought to the island by them: water bottles are not refilled, plastic bags abound.

We think of New Zealand  – and market the country – as a clean green destination but pollution is not just rubbish on the ground. Have we (or travel agents) have sold the visitor a too narrow view of places to visit; given them a list of sites they’ must see’, activities they should take part in? This produces problems such as Milford Sound could have – buses arriving in droves, disgorging visitors (and fumes from the buses) to see wonderful pristine sights. An oxymoron? This of course is not only a New Zealand problem.

It reminds me of Lake Louise in Banff, Canada, where I too was a body disgorged from a bus to see the great views. I have proof that I was there – a photo of me sitting with the lake and mountains as the backdrop – it looks idyllic. However I know that beside me, waiting for their turn to have the moment recorded, is another busload of chattering travellers.

The problems of being poured into the tourist funnel will continue if we rely on unimaginative travel agents (and of course not all are) and the forceful marketing of those who have invested in areas. While it is more economical for planes and hotels to have us arrive together and stay in the same places it also creates problems for them – not the least is the strong chance of killing the goose that lays the golden egg such as the warning in the child’s story.

This is not a new problem. Read books written years ago and the same complaints are made. Tell others you are going to Bali (or Timbuktu) and immediately you will be told  “you should have gone there ten (2, 5, 50 years ago,) before it was discovered.”

However help maybe at hand. An organisation called Green Globe 21 is on the rise in New Zealand. Some 200 companies have embraced its ten different indicators for sustainable environmental codes. What is even better is that many local authorities have signed up too.

What can I do? Shop at locally owned places wherever I am; support companies that practice high standards; (e.g. Kiwi Host, Green Globe) are a good start.

Combining the universal codes of pack it in pack it out and take only photos, leave only footprints along with getting off the well-worn tourist trails means I’ll be able to enjoy my travels with a clearer conscience.

Hollywood star, Kiwi actress, Keisha Castle-Hughes & global warming

Mindfood Sunday 12 Jul 2009

Keisha joins Greenpeace Pacific campaign

Hollywood star and youngest-ever Best Actress Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes arrived today in Aitutaki on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza to speak up for a global climate treaty.

“I get really upset over situations that are morally unjust. Pacific Islanders have hardly contributed to climate change, and yet are bearing the brunt of the problem, ” said Ms Castle-Hughes.

The New Zealand actress, who rose to fame at the age of eleven as the lead character Paikea in the film `Whale Rider’, said she has always had a strong interest in the Pacific. Growing up, Ms Castle-Hughes’ mother was keen for her to learn about the region.

Ms Castle-Hughes is joining the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza, as it visits Rarotonga and Aitutaki to highlight the impacts of climate change. She has already participated in a well attended open boat day, and met with the Cook Islands prime minister and other dignitaries.

Aitutaki is one of many small islands in the Pacific already bearing the brunt of climate change. Impacts include rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, changing weather patterns, and threats to food security due to ocean acidification and salination of soil.

Warmer temperatures are also bleaching Aitutaki’s coral reefs, a prime tourist attraction. Castle-Hughes will meet with tourism officials in Aitutaki to discuss what needs to be done to ensure climate impacts don’t destroy this crucial industry.

“The cavalier attitude of the Australian Government in blocking international moves towards climate justice will deny our Pacific neighbours their livelihoods, homes and cultures. Developed nations need to chose between propping up massive international polluters or supporting our Pacific neighbours,” said Greenpeace Climate Campaigner Trish Harrup.

Earlier this year the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which includes 19 Pacific island countries, called on industrialised nations as a group to commit to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% over the next decade.

KIWI READERS . plese sign on to encourge our govt to do the right thing re climate change http://www.signon.org.nz/join-me/7778677c

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Keisha Castle-Hughes (source: Greenpeace)