What is the problem and how did we get there?
A fine approach to any unwanted situation.
So, what is the problem with tourism as it is today? We can answer the question here, the way we see it, but a foreseeable issue with that, is that most people, or at least the people on the more fortunate side of the problem, do not have the slightest idea that there even is one.
In that regard, it might prove more effectful that we ask questions in this blog, rather than only talking about our own perspective. After all, we are all able to develop understanding only from within.
How can we find out if tourism is actually supporting local communities?
It’s almost a sacred truth in popular opinion, a.k.a. common knowledge, that tourism, whatever that means in any time at any place, is in fact supporting local communities. “It” creates jobs, bring about wealth and gives opportunities to the local people, which they wouldn’t have, was it not for tourism.
So how is all this measured? The GDP of a nation is often used to support these claims. More precisely actually, how much of the GDP tourism is accounting for. Is the GDP representing wealth in local communities? One thing that GDP is sure to represent, is sick and dying people (health care) – it accounts for up to 20% in some countries.
It is indeed a fact that jobs are created by tourism – a lot of jobs! But are jobs automatically equivalent to well-being, good health, a roof over your head or even an insurance that a society will not be deeply divided by relative poverty, which is a key trigger of crime, disease and corruption? In USA, record low unemployment numbers have been reached lately – but the percentage of Americans living as homeless, is rising.
Tourism – as everything else – does not have a fixed meaning, impact or outcome. It depends on everything else around it. In the context of a local community, just like any food or fluid can be either helpful or harmful depending on the amount and how it is prepared, tourism can help a community tremendously and damage it for many years. What determines whether it’s helpful or not? If the current carrying capacity of the community can handle any given number of tourists, so neither foreign investments instead of local investments nor destruction of surrounding natural environments are necessary, tourism is helpful and sustainable in the community – does that statement make sense? Keep in mind that foreign investments, among other things, means foreign profits.
An example from Stepantsminda, Republic of Georgia: A mountain village, living off livestock, various carpenter proffesions and gatherings in surrounding environment receives news that the surrounding land, owned by the government, has now been sold to foreign investors. The investors, being extremely wealthy compared to the local price level, can build big and wide even though the current amount of tourism is not enough to fill them up – making the local occupations impossible. The villagers, visited by MatKon Travel, answered this when asked what they earn their money from, in the 6 months a year outside tourist season: No income, but we survive.
The questions are left to be answered by the reader.