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How To Be A Sustainable Tourist

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Alternative vacation destinations and choices will heal the planet, your wallet and your soul.

Take The Path Less Travelled: How To Be Sustainable Tourists illustration
Tardy Tourism by Shagun Soni

The relaxed pandemic restrictions and they want to see new sights around the world have gotten a lot of us booking tickets, looking for accommodation and planning a trip, with our friends, which might never actually happen. Tourism is a booming industry and plays an integral part in the Indian economy, since the initiation of the ‘Make In India’ programme- In 2020, the travel & tourism industry’s contribution to the GDP was US$ 121.9 billion; this is expected to reach US$ 512 billion by 2028.

What is Extractive Tourism?

The advent of tourism has brought several benefits boosting a region’s economy and access to different cultures and ways of life. Some benefits are not only unequally distributed but come at a price that is levied on the local civilization and their resources. The general idea of this problem is encompassed in the term ‘extractive tourism’, coined by Vijay Kolinjiwadi - the term is a step up from the concept of overtourism by focusing on the consequential effects of it and the unfair actions of the industry of tourism. Vijay Kolinjiwadi, in an article for Al Jazeera, explains how the concept is inclusive of several other issues and ideologies like that of capitalism, consumerism, exploitation of labour, unfair use of resources and a disregard for the cultural preservation of a place-

“Capitalist forces have convinced the increasingly overworked middle-class labour force in the West and elsewhere that to ‘relax’, it needs a vacation abroad with all comforts provided. As a result, it is willing to pay significant sums of money to be mass transported south and east to enjoy a week of leisure at the expense of local communities who suffer from the abuse of their land and resources by tourism corporations and their local partners.” With a capitalistic advertisement of how tourism is marketed, the true cost of luxury overshadows the brunt of the tourism industry on the resources and the livelihood of local communities in the area.

A destination like Goa can be understood in the form of a mine. Unlike a traditional mine, the resources of the city are above ground. Its wealth is housed in museums, beaches, waterfalls, landmarks, natural wonders, local cuisine, and opulent hotels. The primary goal of a mine is to obtain the mineral, removing all other components to get to that kernel of the resource. The same is true for extractive tourism. It is a situation in which a resource has been identified at a specific site and the site becomes entirely focused on the extraction of that value, the tourism value. In Goa, the water level has fallen far below the reach of the village wells since the deep wells of the hotels keep pumping up water for their pools and lush green lawns. Along with that the hotels are ensured 24 hours water supply and water in tanks. A 50% concession has been given for the hotels’ water and electricity bills.

Tourism, like mining, promises beneficial gains of resource extraction: employment opportunities, new growth, emerging markets, more economic growth, and improved livelihoods. And while some of these benefits are certainly real, they’re often distributed unevenly, flowing into the pockets of corporations, or people who have nothing to do with the destination.

Identifying extractive tourism as an issue has resulted in several measures being taken to combat it. The government in Thailand was forced to close Maya Bay indefinitely in 2018 to allow its ecosystem - damaged by the pressure of mass tourism, in hopes that it can regenerate, and in 2016, the local community in Venice protested in the city’s Giudecca Canal in small fishing boats. This was done to block the passage of large cruise ships which have been blamed for unsettling the delicate environmental balance of Venice’s lagoon.

Other economic issues arise as a result of tourism development for the local population. Tourist destinations are witnessing both an increase in land values and an increase in basic food commodity prices. Both are becoming increasingly out of reach for the majority of the local population. The spread of gentrification and redevelopment forces local residents out of their homes they cannot keep up with the costs of living and structural changes do not allow for the same housing requirements- Eventually offering the area up for commercial use.

Sustainable Tourism- Overcoming the repercussions of extractive tourism

The constraints of the pandemic restrictions, since 2020, have taught us to appreciate the freedom of movement and travelling. Habitual tourism is estimated to resume by 2023, bringing on the same effects if the required awareness is not disseminated and action is not taken.

As individual travellers, it is important to understand the concept of sustainable tourism, to adapt to our travelling. The Mohonk Agreement (2000), a proposal for international certification of Sustainable Tourism and Ecotourism, saw the idea of eco-friendly tourism as “sustainable tourism with a natural area focus, which benefits the environment and communities visited, and fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation, and awareness.”

Through individual research on the place and the facilities one is availing of during their travel, it is important to understand the background and the current status of the place. Some locations, like water bodies that house coral reefs, can be environmentally sensitive or we can try to avoid visiting a place during its peak tourist season to lessen the strain on its resources- Visiting a lesser-known area of a place or a new region altogether can be a great way to see something new and curb over-tourism. For example, a place like Goa, in India, is infamous for its beaches and holiday destinations. However, certain periods during the year bring an excessive amount of tourists, in the holidays and for festivals, etc, which results in overcrowding and an increased need for infrastructure- This rapid urbanisation and development contributes to soil erosion and the breaking down of sand dunes, which act as barriers against the winds, storms, hurricanes, etc., causing beaches to disappear.

Being mindful of the policies and practices associated with the organisations like hotels, transport services and entertainment companies while we’re in another place is important- This is in terms of their labour laws, sourcing methods and environmental effect. Buying from regional vendors and staying at locally run lodging facilities is a great way to support the local economy. As is evident from the pattern in Goa and Orissa, instead of providing a boost to employment, increasing tourism has actually led to a loss of employment. In 2015, for example, Leading Hotels Pvt. Ltd. encroached on a part of the land in Tiracol, a Goan coastal village. This disposition of land not only harms the cultural significance of the area but prevents locals from the use of the land for entrepreneurship and employment. We as tourists should avoid going to overcrowded tourism destinations like Goa and if we do, we must ensure that the organisation we avail services from do not contribute to disrupting local livelihoods.

The local authorities and tourism facilitators should carry out their businesses while offering communities cultural sovereignty. The brunt of environmental and cultural negligence is borne by the people of the place, due to extractive tourism so they have control over how the land and its resources are used. social movements like La Vía Campesina, founded in Belgium as a way of upholding ‘food and farming sovereignty’, which is demanding that food production be controlled through democratic processes by those who directly work the land. Likewise, we should call for sovereignty in labour and leisure. It is also important as a tourist to respect and has an understanding of the cultural requirements of a place- Sustainability must be adhered to in respect of upkeeping the rituals of an area.

Some tourist destinations have begun to combat extractive tourism. Venice, for example, recently approved a cruise ship ban, and all EU destinations will be measuring tourism success differently in the future. Amsterdam has enacted regulations to prevent souvenir shops from displacing local businesses, as well as restrictions on vacation rentals and hotel chains. The Scottish parliament approved legislation requiring short-term rental operators to obtain a licence; it is hoped that this will regulate the industry and help preserve cities like Edinburgh, whose old town has been largely destroyed by Airbnb rentals.


Vijay Kolinjiwadi(February 2021), It is Time to End Extractive Tourism, Al Jazeera News

David Walsh(February 2022), What is ‘Extractive’ Tourism and What We Can Do About It, EuroNews.Travel

Lucy Dodsworth(March 2021), How We Can Make Tourism Sustainable, OnTheLuce(travel blog)

Mohit Iasija, What are the negative impacts of tourism on India?, Preserve Articles

Solano Da Silva, Kenneth Bo Nielsen, Heather P. Bedi(October 2020), Land use planning, dispossession and contestation in Goa, India, Taylor and Francis Online

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