Tourism has skyrocketed in the past decade. AFAR’s co-founder reflects on how travelers, despite having the world at their fingertips, can be better global citizens.
When AFAR was launched 10 years ago, not many of us were worried about “overtourism.” We were in the midst of a global recession, which kept travelers at home and hit the travel industry hard. Instagram, which now gets blamed for making certain spots too popular, hadn’t even been invented yet.
Today, it’s a different world. In 2008, the United Nations World Tourism Organization counted 922 million international tourist arrivals; by last year, that number had climbed to an estimated 1.4 billion. As the number of travelers has increased, some destinations are straining under their weight. How do we who believe in the power of travel to make the world a better place deal with these challenges?
By encouraging people to be better travelers. AFAR has always approached travel not as a bucket list of items to be marked off a list, but as a search for deeper experiences that enrich our lives. Travel should not be about impressing our friends, posting the photo, and saying “been here, done that.” At its best, travel gets us out of our comfort zone, takes us beneath the surface of a place, gives us a new perspective, and ultimately helps us grow as people. Travel should enlighten us, should make us wiser and more empathetic.
The May/June issue’s Wander section is titled “How to Be a Better Traveler.” In it, we’ve got lots of great practical tips about connecting to the people and destinations you visit, and we address ethical issues related to how your visit affects those people. Anya Von Bremzen takes us to Venice, one of those destinations struggling with overtourism, and shows us a way to visit that will benefit the city and the people who live there, that supports the very things that make it one of the world’s great destinations.
None of us is perfect, but we all make choices as travelers, and we want to make them as thoughtfully as we can. We are pleased that more travelers are getting out to see the world. Now, it’s up to travelers like us to educate and inspire our new fellow travelers to find the true power of travel.