Founder of Bradt Travel Guides, Hilary Bradt, says that ‘if people really want to save the planet, and the people who populate it, they should think hard before blindly blaming travel – and book a flight to a country that needs them’.
In an opinion piece for The Telegraph, Hilary Bradt says that even though we are suffering from immense climate anxiety, “we cannot forget the power of travel to make the world better”.
Although she admits that “not all tourism is beneficial”, she argues that tourism provides many benefits – not just in terms of the protection of otherwise exploited ecosystems but people, too, whose livelihoods are greatly improved by visitor spending.
For example, she highlights the plight of women in Madagascar who have, until the pandemic, been able to make money selling beautiful handicrafts. But since tourists were banned from entering the country, they have been forced to resort to prostitution.
Here are is an excerpt from the piece…
“For years climate-change activists have successfully instilled ‘flight shame’ into the psyche of thousands of hitherto happy travellers. There’s much to be said for cutting back on European city breaks, particularly if the journey can be made by rail, but there is a persuasive argument in favour of long-haul travel to the developing world, especially where local communities and wildlife are involved. Those who seek to demonise travel in the name of saving the planet shouldn’t overlook this.
“Until 2020 we who worked in the growing tourism sector of the developing world happily watched as local people showed a new pride in their wildlife, their landscape and their country as a whole, whatever its shortcomings. Charities benefited thanks to visits from interested groups who gave generously on the spot and continued to offer support after they went home. International friendships developed through social media. Tourism worked on so many levels to improve people’s lives.
“It helped hugely with conservation, too. We always knew how vulnerable to poaching the national parks are in most wildlife-rich countries. They are not fenced and have no regular patrols, so it is easy for a villager to slip in and trap an animal for food or cut down a tree or two. More worrying is that it’s also easy for a gang with a chainsaw, working for a logging company, to remove valuable hardwood trees. Except that they don’t, they can’t, if guided groups of tourists may appear at any time and catch them at it.
“One of Madagascar’s most important rainforests never recovered from a dearth of tourists 12 years ago during a political crisis. Rare rosewood trees were illegally removed in their hundreds to satisfy the Chinese market. Nobody noticed until it was too late, and the complete cessation of tourists for the last 18 months when Madagascar closed its borders due to Covid-19 has been longer and more total.
“The country is reopening to international tourists this month and gradually we will receive reports of how the protected areas have fared. It will not be good. Nature matters, and the Malagasy people are the custodians of their nature. Pre-pandemic, some 44,000 jobs depended directly on tourism, with a further 300,000 benefiting indirectly. They need tourists to return.”