Today is World Tourism Day. The UNWTO has declared this year’s theme to be “Tourism and Rural Development.”
No doubt we’ve all had more time than we ever imagined possible to reflect on what travel means to us.
As someone who has spent over a decade living in a “recovering” region and who spent her childhood and teens in one, I’ve learned two things about tourism:
It can be a powerful tool.
Or it can be utterly destructive.
It can transform the lives of people – particularly women and youth – and lift them out of an oppressive system. It can boost entrepreneurship and thereby create major social change.
Or it can exploit people and keep them in servitude and in a cycle of low wages for the rest of their lives.
Which side of the tourism coin will you choose?
That’s what it comes down to in a post-pandemic world. We have been given this chance in our lifetime, at the cost of so many lost lives, to see just how much tourism affects the world positively, as well as how much it can hurt when it isn’t structured to profit rural communities and by default, the preservation of nature (which is, in essence, what sustainable travel is).
There’s a lot of talk about helping uplift those communities and locals who haven’t been given a larger piece of the tourism pie. But will the governments and UN bodies speeches go beyond talk and turn into action, especially for the Caribbean? I don’t know.
What I do know is that as individuals, we each have a powerful choice to make.
If you’re among those who have the ability to travel for leisure, then my hope is this: that you realize at a deeper level than in the past that exploring places isn’t just about you.
Travel is about others. It’s about the places and people you will be impacting with every trip.
So will you open you mind during this time and be willing to learn how to impact positively?
Or will you bury your head in the sand, focus on your own desires and follow the status quo – irrespective of negative impact?
Will you learn about destinations from those of us who are Black journalists and bloggers of color who live in the Caribbean region and have invested years experiencing, promoting and writing about sustainability in its tourism industry – thereby dismantling the inherent systemic racism that has been part of the travel industry, especially in this part of the world? Or will you continue to read, share, and value the information on the Caribbean only when it comes from White media? Every single mind shift matters for things to change.
It’s up to each of us to decide the kind of tourism we want to support and the kind of informational platform on the Caribbean we choose to uplift.
In honor of World Tourism Day, and in my continued efforts to support sustainable travel, I created a Green Travel Code for the Caribbean – you can view it on my new platform, See the Caribbean. In a single graphic, the code serves as a guideline for travelers with 10 sustainable travel principles or “STPs” to apply to their future Caribbean travels.
You can also access it in PDF format to save in your photo folder, or to print and keep in your home offices.
It is my hope that this one-pager will begin to guide travelers to ensure they are making better decisions and a positive impact. I hope you’ll read the code as well, reflect on it, sign it and share it on social media. Even if you start with just two principles, it’s a start.
The ability to see the world is one of life’s greatest gifts. Let’s share that gift with those who depend on tourism and who may not have our privilege to travel the world for leisure.
Will you share the “See the Caribbean Green Travel Code” with others today?