And like that, travel is booming again. No one is more surprised than me.
During the height of the pandemic, I predicted it would be close to a decade before people felt comfortable packing themselves into crowded planes, trains and cruise ships. But no, with a few notable exceptions like some Asian countries, where Covid-related restrictions are still in place, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, nearly everywhere else around the world travel is rebounding, according to the United Nations World Tourism Agency.
The onus is on us then, to be better travelers than we were in the past.
This is not so difficult, once we decide to no longer be the problem as I learned recently on viewing the new documentary, “The Last Tourist” now playing on Hulu.
Considering how complex the issues are, the film presents solutions that are simple and better yet, within our individual control. It starts with being more thoughtful about where we spend our travel dollars and being more questioning about our entertainment choices, and never forgetting that one person’s travel “destination” is someone else’s “home”.
Before getting to these lessons though, The Last Tourist presents lucious scenes of our travel fantasies, vacationers enoying color-saturated locales, cavorting with wildlife in jungles. Then the camera turns from the idyllic to the reality; environmental damage, animal and human cruelty, and revealing the startling statistic that the majority of tourism money does not remain in local economies. So our singular choices, like where we dine, how much we bathe, and which attractions we visit, become more important because once multiplied the consequences can either be disastrous or beneficial.
Visitation alters the nature of the place. We cannot celebrate travel without acknowledging that. Nor can we dial back, given the statistics. Livelihoods depend on this now well-entrenched industry. Before the pandemic brought travel to a screeching halt, the industry made up ten percent of the global gross domestic product.
As a frequent traveler, who has long felt impotent to do anything as over-tourism seeps deeper into all corners of the globe, The Last Tourist was liberating. Learning how I contributed to the problem meant I could also be part of the solution. This became clear just a week later.
On a short combination work/pleasure visit to Florida last month, I wound up cooling my heels at the rental car counter at Miami International Airport. Between a shortage of cars and a shortage of workers, taking possession of a vehicle was just the first challenge. Getting out of the parking lot came next. A long line of cars snaked through the garage where a lone attendant checked every auto, driver and the associated paperwork. Finally headed eastward to the beach, I idled on the city’s congested highways. That is when it hit me; I am a) one woman in b) one car headed to c) the number one most popular destination; Miami Beach, which is well served by bus, rail, ride share and taxi. I was not partaking of those transport solutions, I was part of the problem.
And so I made a vow to think more about the other ways I could make a lighter footprint because sustainable travel begins with me. And it begins with you.
Author of The New York Times bestseller, The Crash Detectives, I am also a journalist, public speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.