93% of corals have been impacted by abnormally warm waters. Coral bleaching has spread around the globe, devastating reef mortality and resulting in a sense of urgency amongst some tourists. A feeling of ‘I have to get there before its too late!’ is sweeping across many travellers. This has created a form of tourism that I have come to loathe the most, ‘last-chance Tourism’. It suggests a feeling of hopelessness, that we are too late and nothing can be done. Conservation soon gets replaced by an acceptance of demise and we extract as much as we can before it disappears. This needs to change and fast!
Working in responsible tourism I often hear ‘I have to get there before…’. A phrase, that changes depending on what’s popular at that time. If often runs in conjunction with wildlife ‘before the Orangutans are gone’ and ‘before the Gorillas are gone’, cultures, ‘I have to get to Cuba before the Americans’ and landscapes ‘before the glacier disappears’.
The ‘see it before its gone’ feeling causes increased popularity and unless it’s managed effectively it inflicts strain on the one thing people have come to love and is already threatened. The development of Antarctica holidays is a great example. Tourists are desperate to see one of the earth’s last frontiers before it melts under the pressure of climate change.
Travel to Antarctica is naturally regulated somewhat by its accessibility and the huge cost associated with the travel demands. However, its increased popularity has stimulated tourism growth and thus improved accessibility. We have seen massive cruise ships sail past the melting icecaps and passenger planes landing directly on Antarctica. But importantly, as we all know, tourism both impacts and causes climate change. Our increased presence is threatening what we have travelled so far to see. Cruises and flights to Antarctica are much like a hungry snake eating its own tail BUT, tourists understand the implications.
So have tourists already accepted the negative effects of climate change? Has some tourism simply become a last-minute dash ‘to get there before…’? I think for some it has but not for all!
One of the greatest positive effects of responsible tourism is that it brings people face to face with the real issue and transforms into a catalyst for environmentally and socially awareness. My initial thoughts upon hearing the ‘to get there before…’ phrase was, ‘fantastic people generally do have a passion for conservationism!’. But then the underlining rhetoric of acceptance began to ring clear.
This needs to change and quickly if responsible tourism is going to work! If it continues, altruistic behaviour from responsible tourism could fall due to increased acceptance of our own causality. A ‘I would love to help’ will quickly be replaced by ‘at least I get there before its too late’.
We, as tourism professionals, have a responsibility to sustain the destinations, wildlife and cultures we visit. Its obvious people feel passionate about wildlife, cultures and landscapes otherwise they wouldn’t pay thousands to see it! So a bloody good place to start is to remove the ‘before it’s too late’ principle as seen by Wanderlust and to provide steps on how tourists can have a positive influence, reduce their negative impacts and introduce a new phrase;