Is Tourism Destroying the World?

Is Tourism Destroying the World?


Photo source: OutsideOnline.com

Trash everywhere after the Full Moon Party in Thailand (Photo source: OutsideOnline.com)

In one end, tourism is highly beneficial. It generates revenues that can provide livelihood to its residents. It heightens the attention of backpackers to places that were once unheard of. It makes the world smaller and cultures universal. However, there is the other side of tourism that is not reflected in postcards and travel guides. This is the side that most of the people, locals and visitors alike, turn blind against. After all, for every action is an opposite reaction.

Tourism as a destructive force is best captured in “Gringo Trails” by anthropologist Pega Vail. A documentary about 15 years in the making, Gringo Trails highlights the argument that tourism can also cause the downfall of an area’s orderliness and ecosystem balance. More so, it can cause destruction to the environment and dissolve indigenous cultures due to globalization.

Overcrowded beaches can leave tons of trash and damage to beach sand. (Photo source: Dormstormer.com)

Overcrowded beaches can leave tons of trash and damage to beach sand. (Photo source: Dormstormer.com)

The documentary couldn’t have been released in a more appropriate time. Backpacking is a rising trend and more tourists are travelling now thanks to budget airline companies. With hundreds of rave reviews, a place can become a Mecca of travel pilgrims. When that happens, that area can become vulnerable to the unethical practices that these guests have.

“Gringo Trails” refers to the trails that renowned traveler groups have covered. In recent years though, the profile of a Gringo Trail traveler is slowly being diluted due to more open travel routes. With more travel routes come more stories to share and entice another wave of tourists to get the ground running. This gives more opportunities to navigate the world and in some ways, more potential dangers from tourists who will have fun by any means possible.

The documentary couldn’t have been released in a more appropriate time. Backpacking is a rising trend and more tourists are travelling now thanks to budget airline companies. With hundreds of rave reviews, a place can become a Mecca of travel pilgrims. When that happens, that area can become vulnerable to the unethical practices that these guests have.

Is Tourism Destroying the World 4

The entire film highlights the notion of “dark tourism” which can rake up the dollars but can cause long-term societal and environmental headaches. The best case in point for this concept is the full moon parties at Koh Pha Ngan Island in Thailand. It was TIME Magazine’s Colin Hinshelwood who first brought this party into light when a few tourists celebrated the night away in 1988. Back then, the parties were pure fun. Now, it’s out of control and participants don’t seem to know why it was done in the first place.

The 1980s were rough times in Koh Pha Ngan. Crime and terror roamed the land and visitors only get to party when the moon was at its brightest. At present, terror still grips the island and tourists can be largely credited for it. By morning, the beach is a wasteland of empty beer and water bottles. Vomits of cocktails are visible in the sand and the intoxicated ones lay recklessly on the shore.

In the night hours leading to that, there is a free enterprise of booze and illegal drugs. With most people under the influence of these substances, all hell can break loose. Raping incidents go unreported and riots are or regular occurrence. It is a party beyond moral proportions but there are tourists who make it a point to be there.

It’s an understatement that it has tainted the image of Koh Pha Ngan but officials are banking on the opening of the new airport in the island as an opening in the dark cloud. But as they say, it’s hard to go against the norm. Until family vacationers consider it for a short weekend getaway, Koh Pha Ngan will remain to be about the music, the meth and the moon in full.

Known as a tourist haven, Maldives is having a serious waste disposal problem. (Photo source: http://tomasveraziccardi.blogspot.com/)

Known as a tourist haven, Maldives is having a serious waste disposal problem. (Photo source: http://tomasveraziccardi.blogspot.com/)

If the rape is not committed against peace, it is taken out on the locals. This practice gave rise to “sex tourism” which is prevalent in third-world countries. With high unemployment rates and foreigners looking for the thrill of their lives, women are forced into slavery of the flesh because they provide for their family. Despite the abuse, would they cut the throat of the dragon that feeds them?

There is also an argument in “Gringo Trails” that when a destination becomes renowned, it’s the established corporations that win. They have the means to build a tourist facility and charge rates for their services. As more tourists flock, more investors come in and the place becomes more commercialized that there is an utter disregard for the environment.

Progress isn’t bad as long as we never disrupt what was originally there. In a lot of ways, tourism builds bridges between nations. But as these links are fortified, there are things that will be taken for granted. In the long run, these bridges might be tarnished because of its negative effects. The boarding pass to the dark side of tourism has been presented. Will you take a flight with it?

What we all need is responsible tourism to prevent the situation from deteriorating. (Photo credit: polankatravel.co.uk)

What we all need is responsible tourism to prevent the situation from deteriorating. (Photo credit: polankatravel.co.uk)

Here is the trailer of the Gringo Trails documentary:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkZOFmrhy_8&w=960&h=720]

 

References:

1) Campbell, Charlie. Thailand’s Full-Moon Parties Have Become a Trashy Disgrace. http://world.time.com/2013/07/08/thailands-full-moon-parties-have-become-a-trashy-disgrace/

2) Li, Zoe. Gringo Trails: Is Tourism Destroying the World? http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/02/travel/gringo-trails-documentary/

3) Golanco, Vince. Tourism Destroying the World: “Gringo Trails” Movie Documentary About the Darker Side of Tourism. http://www.wheninmanila.com/tourism-destroying-the-world-gringo-trails-movie-documentary-about-dark-tourism/

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