Tourism in the 21st century is about more than snapping a few pictures in front of some of the world’s most famous landmarks. Travelers today are a new breed; they are socially conscious with an eye toward making their holiday mean something to more than just themselves, but those around them too.
Humane tourists are members of a larger responsible tourism movement which aims to ensure that people traveling around the world and boarding flights from anywhere to Auckland to Zimbabwe actively participate in empowering local communities through tourism.
The humane travel movement is very much focused on developing countries, but developed nations can also offer meaningful experiences too. However, at the heart of the movement is a desire to connect travelers from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand directly to the local communities that they visit.
The idea is that travelers use local businesses in specific destinations directly, which provides an economic advantage to local economies rather than third party travel agents or multi-national hotel chains. This way, the money goes to, and stays with the local community, where it can be used for the greater good.
In connecting visitors from all over the world with local business owners, travelers are guaranteed to experience a new type of international hospitality. Humane tourists aren’t looking for food they can find at home or hotel rooms with generic amenities and culturally neutral decor, they are looking for authentic and unique encounters with local populations who are equipped to provide culturally significant experiences.
Examples of humane tourism initiatives take all forms and can be as simple as visitors accompanying a local fisherman out for the day and returning to his family home to eat the day’s catch and experience a taste of the local customs and hospitality.
Empowering Local Communities
At its core, humane tourism is about empowering local populations to take control of their past, present and future. Providing a service whereby visitors are able to experience a destination through a local’s eyes is valuable from a tourism perspective yes, but it also promotes value within local communities. With money going directly to local business owners, they are able to grow and thrive as a result of (rather than in spite of) international tourism.
The internet is a pivotal part of the humane tourism movement and provides the tools for local businesses to reach international audiences and potential customer bases. Online platforms are an important way for locals to spread the word about their respective offerings and to help promote other local businesses to ensure the entire community benefits.
Humane tourism offers small scale tourism infrastructure on a global scale. Promoting local economies and allowing them to reap the benefits of international tourism dollars is an incredibly empowering prospect for many developing communities who want nothing more than to share their incredible cultures, landscapes, flora and fauna with visitors from far and wide.
Photo credits: Top image by waltercallens, shared under a Creative Commons Licence and second image by ahinsajain, shared under a Creative Commons Licence.
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