Travel has the power to be the greatest source of economic transformation this world has ever seen. In the United States, one out of every nine jobs depends on travel and tourism. Globally, the travel and tourism sector supports 292 million employees, and the industry’s contribution to the world economy continues to rise every year, currently, it’s a $7.6 trillion dollar business, accounting for 10.2% of world GDP.
The problem is that for every $100 spent in tourism dollars, just $5 stays within the local economy where the tourism occurs. Sure, the last resort you stayed at may have showcased its commitment to sustainability by giving you the option to reuse your towels, but did you consider who benefited from the dollars you spent on your room? Or which natural resources may have been sacrificed in the process of its construction?
When you choose experiences and vendors that are owned, managed, staffed, and baked into the local economy, you’ll not only benefit the local people, you’ll be better for it yourself.
Next week marks the 34th annual National Travel and Tourism Week, a week that’s meant to celebrate what travel means to American jobs, our economic growth, and personal well-being. I say it’s the perfect time to do some self-reflection about your travel decisions, and book yourself some well-deserved time away. This, essentially, is what it means to travel better, and so I’m calling it the Travel Better Pledge. It’s a principle I’ve believed in since founding my company, G Adventures, 27 years ago. The goal is to inspire business and leisure travelers alike to make conscious choices that benefit the communities they visit, the planet–and themselves.
When you make choices based on these values, two things happen. The first is that you become an agent of social change, a conscious tourist whose decisions serve to enrich–not exploit–the local community and environment. The second is that you have more authentic and interesting experiences, deepen your understanding of new cultures and, at least in my experience, have the time of your life.
Pledging to travel better means changing both your mindset and behavior. Here are seven ways to embrace the travel better principle:
1: Do Your Homework
Before you go anywhere, read up on local traditions, customs and culture, and do your best to learn a few new words in the local language. Showing respect goes a long way, and helps you better immerse yourself in new cultures.
Take The Pledge To Travel Better – Fast Company