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Travel on the Mind:

Ethical tourism in a consumer economy.

By Hailey Pitcher

The incentive to travel usually originates from a longing to submerge oneself into the culture of another country, and/or from an urge to take a long-needed break from work, school, and other common stressors of life.

We are living in the age of tourism, which means we have a constant urge to go beyond our comfort zones and explore the world whatever our reason. However, hidden within the realm of tourism is the corporate greed of consumerism that has shaped the tourism empire. Although most of us have the best intentions when it comes to our travels, the question remains: is there an ethical way to travel?

According to RevFine, the tourism industry refers to “all activity related to the short-term movement of people to locations away from where they usually reside.” It covers sections of travel, such as transportation, entertainment, and accommodation, and even drives the economies of certain countries, such as the Maldives and the British Virgin Islands. Most countries like the United States, however, have tourism industries in place, whether it’s considered to be a primary economic factor or not.

This year, in 2022, the market size for tourism is roughly around $900 billion, which boomed after the lifting of restrictions previously in-place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As lockdowns and mask mandates were lifted, people rushed to book plane tickets and resorts to get rid of their cabin fever.

The tourism industry usually highlights the classic attractions of a country, such as a place of historical significance or the nation’s capital city. These attractions are most likely to cater to all audiences, no matter the age, and bring in the most money.

For example, tourism for England highlights London and not usually the seacoast or the countryside; Japanese tourism highlights Tokyo and Kyoto and may overlook the breathtaking mountain landscapes outside of the city. It’s usually up to the individual traveler to dig deeper into the culture and hidden treasures of a country if they’d like to be properly submerged into their experience, as travel brochures may only present surface-level excursions information to those looking to broaden their horizons.

It can be hard to avoid consumerism when planning trips unless you have the resources with which to plan a trip that can avoid things, such as buying plane tickets, making hotel bookings, or booking excursions out of a travel agency; however, this presents a challenge to provide your own transportation and your own accommodation. While it is completely possible, it isn’t possible for all individuals with wanderlust.

Tourism is essential for certain economies and for basic travel. While it has its perks as mentioned, there’s no escaping the notion that the tourism industry needs a revamping. Tourism needs to diverge from exclusive profit and focus on the culture of a country and the genuine experience of the consumer.


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