ALTERNATIVES TO TOURISM
In 2002, nearly 700 million trips were made across international borders, and that number is projected to rise to one billion by 2010; that’s quite a change from the 1.7 million trips taken when Let’s Go: Europe was first published in 1961. The dra matic rise in tourism has created an interdependence between the economy, envi ronment, and culture of Europe and the tourists it hosts. In fact, no continent hosts more: with over 400 million arrivals last year. Europe welcomes a larger number of visitors anually than all other destinations combined.
At Let’s Go, we aim to foster a mutually beneficial relationship between traveler and destination. We’ve watched the growth of the ignorant tourist” stereotype with dismay, knowing that the majority of travelers care passionately about the state of the communities and environments they explore but also knowing that even con scientious tourists can inadvertently damage natural wonders and cultural enclaves. We feel the philosophy of sustainable travel is among the most important travel tips we can impart to our readers. Through sensitivity to local communities, today’s trav elers can be a powerful force in preserving and restoring this fragile world.
Two rising trends in sustainable travel are ecotourism and community-based tourism. Ecotourism focuses on the conservation of natural habitats and the pro motion of local economies without exploitation or overdevelopment. Community- based tourism aims to channel tourist dollars into the local economy by empha sizing tours and cultural programs run by members of the host community, often to the benefit of disadvantaged groups.
Volunteer opportunities range from conservation to humanitarian projects, and can be completed on an infrequent basis or as the main component of your trip.
There are many other ways to integrate with the communities you visit. Studying at a college or language program is one popular option. Many travelers also struc ture trips around the work they can get along the way, which often consists of odd jobs as they go or full-time stints in larger cities.
For more info about sustainable tourism visit www.worldsurface.com, which features photos and personal stories of volunteer experiences. More general info is available at www.sustainabletravel.org. For those who would prefer hands-on involvement, Earthwatch International, Operation Crossroads Africa, and Habitat for Humanity offer fulfilling volunteer opportunities around the world.
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