Updated January 21, 2009

Developing Sustainable Tourism & Alternative Tourism

As a long-time, avid traveler for both fun and for business, I've seen first hand the impact that tourism can have on a variety of countries and communities, and benefited from what traveling has given me. I love the good that tourism can do for small local businesses and for the traveler as well. Tourism can bring in much needed funds to communities. Tourism in areas rich in natural and cultural resources can give local communities a financial incentive to preserve these resources. Tourism can breathe life into dyeing cultural arts and crafts. Tourism can also create meaningful interactions between visitors and hosts, shattering stereotypes and educating everyone about different cultures and religions.

Combining my extensive travel experience with my professional experience in development, I've become very interested in initiatives that help build the capacities of communities, particularly those in transitional countries, to develop a sustainable travel industry that benefits local people and micro-businesses (not large foreign investors) and appeals to a variety of travelers - ecotourists, adventure travelers, budget travelers, business travelers, and women travelers from any of those groups, not just luxury travelers or large package tours (though those are important as well to some areas). I think that, too often, tourism initiatives leave out alternative tourists - people who don't want to go from site to site in a huge bus, don't want to stay in a massive fortress resort, don't want to roam around a crowded site in huge packs, and don't want most of the money they spend to benefit foreign investors. Rather, alternative tourists want to tour independently or in very small groups. They want a long time to experience a site, not just a half hour for photos. They want to experience the local people, local culture, local history and local perspectives. They want to go to small local restaurants that also serve local people, not just tourists. They want to know that most of their money spent stays locally, rather than going to a large multi-national company.

What I don't want is something like Spain's Costa del Sol, where too much cheap construction and development drove tourists away, leaving locals with decaying infrastructure. What I do want is what I experienced in, say, Southern Poland and in various parts of Bulgaria, where small guest houses are flourishing amid small villages, where many small restaurants have menus in multiple languages, and where independent tourists traveling by train, motorcycle, car or bicycle enjoy the sites without overwhelming them.

I also have a dream from the other side of the equation: I dream of the day when I will regularly meet African and Middle Eastern women backpackers and adventurer travelers and motorcycle tourists as I travel myself. But I don't think anyone is working on that...

I created a page of Advice for Hotels, Hostels & Campgrounds in Transitional & Developing Countries: The Qualities of Great, Cheap Accommodations based on my own experiences as an alternative tourist / adventure tourist / budget traveler / whatever in more than 30 countries, but I would so love to do more to help communities create sustainable tourism, helping them to create a variety of accommodations for a variety of travelers, to offer quality local restaurants for a variety of budgets, to offer safety for all travelers, particularly women, to ensure that visitors can get around via bicycle or by walking, to offer transportation to and from larger cities, to communicate with a variety of travelers in a variety of ways, and on and on. In short, I'm interested in tourism for development.

If you are interested in developing sustainable tourism & alternative tourism as well:

Also see: Back to my development resources main page


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