Tips for traveling sustainably

Hosted by

Tourists at the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, April 2019. Photo by Amy Ta.

This summer, Press Play has been looking at cities overrun with tourism in a series called #stayhome. Venice, Italy has overflowed with foreigners on cruise ships. Dubrovnik, Croatia has drawn tourists wanting to recreate 'Game of Thrones' scenes. California's Big Sur and Hollywood have even worse traffic with all the sightseers on tour buses. 

The global tourism industry is worth at least $8 trillion, says Elizabeth Becker, journalist and author of "Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism."

She points out that the U.S. has never looked at tourism as anything serious. There's no ministry of tourism, no government entity coordinating tourism. 

However, people aren't going to stop traveling, nor should they. So what can be done to ensure sustainable and respectful tourism? 

Some destinations have enforced rules for visitors. Machu Picchu, Peru and Easter Island, Chile limit the number of tours happening at its ruins and trails, respectively. 

Becker says the developing country of Bhutan looked at tourism as a way to make money to improve local education. "They limited the number of people... They made sure that when they [tourists] got there, they were hiring locals, that they went to local establishments. And it's been an amazing success. The literacy rate went from 3% to 62% through tourism."


Tiger's Nest Monastery (Paro Takstang) is one of the most recognized spots in Bhutan. Credit: Pixabay

What travelers themselves can do: 

Be more mindful when renting an Airbnb 

Becker says when renting an Airbnb, make sure it's legal there. 

"Barcelona -- afflicted with all kinds of of overtourism. A lot of it comes from having people renting out their rooms or their entire apartments to tourists, and they don't have permission to do it from the city. So Barcelona is shutting down an illegal Airbnb, at least one every day, and they've been doing it for years, and they still can't control that," says Becker. "So if you want to be conscientious, make sure that your Airbnb -- or home away or whatever it is -- does fit the local criteria." 

To make sure the rental is legal, simply ask the host for proof that their unit meets the city's guidelines/requirements. 


Barcelona, Spain. Credit: Pixabay

Take more time to plan trips

Becker says to not just read guidebooks, but read "real" books about history/politics/culture, plus novels and even cookbooks. 

Try to learn a bit of the local language. 

Trust one's own interests in avoiding tourist traps and seeing what's truly local. 

Quality over quantity 

"Do not try to have five cities in five days. Stay in one place. I think two weeks at one place is ideal, but most people don't plan their trips that way," says Becker. "And finally, don't take so many trips. Take those longer trips once in a while. Make them quality." 

Consider overlooked places

One of Becker's favorite places is Bordeaux, France. She says the city used to be an 18th century jewel but became "a mess," and now it's recaptured that beauty. 


Bordeaux, France. Credit: Pixabay

She also likes to send people to Victoria and Vancouver, Canada; Edinburgh, Scotland; Toledo, Spain; Strasbourg, France; and the rivers and vineyards in Germany. 

In the U.S., Becker recommends Providence, Rhode Island; Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Traverse City, Michigan; and Las Vegas, Nevada. 

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Rosalie Atkinson

Credits

Guest:
Elizabeth Becker - author of “Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism"

Host:
Barbara Bogaev

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Devin Schwartz