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Is There Such a Thing as Ethical Tourism?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

Travelling is always exciting. Packing your bags, going halfway across the world and immersing yourself in a completely new culture is an adventure that not many get to go on. Yet, there is a hidden cost of tourism that is burdening local communities worldwide.

In Hawaii, inhabitants have made numerous calls to avoid visiting the island as tourism is exacerbating a housing and water shortage crisis. In the wake of the Maui wildfires in August 2023, many locals opposed the decision to reopen the island to tourists, due to a lack of shelter for residents. Natives have used social media to highlight how hotels and resorts are driving the local population out of their homes and intensifying water scarcity. Yet even with all their pleas, Hawaii remains a popular destination.

Another popular travel location, Venice, Italy, is also struggling to deal with the rapid rise in tourism. As of last September, the number of beds available to tourists has overtaken that of residents. The city will begin to place entrance fees during peak season this year in hopes of pressuring fewer people to visit. Although a beautiful city to visit with a rich history, travellers must think about how much pressure is placed on a city as a byproduct of tourism. 

The tourism industry has been engaging in neo-colonialism through the displacement of local populations and the mistreatment of resources. By ignoring the negative impact tourism has on the local population, tourists can risk feeding into a colonial practice.

With so many picturesque places struggling to preserve their history, culture, environment and even population as a result of the growth of tourism, it can be difficult to justify your travels. However, there are strategies to remain ethical when travelling.

When a population asks for limited visits because of the consequences tourism brings, we should listen to them. As consumers, we should instead focus on promoting destinations that embrace the mutual benefit tourism has for both travellers and host countries. It’s a prerequisite to research the destinations we intend to travel to beforehand and remain mindful of how tourism can negatively affect these locations. The places we visit are not our playgrounds. 

As tourists, we have the choice of where we choose to spend our money. We can support local businesses and artisans and stay at locally-owned accommodations to ensure the livelihood of residents is not disrupted by our travels. 

When exploring the world, we must have compassion for those around us. When given the privilege to travel, it’s crucial to remember that travellers are guests in the daily lives of others. It’s up to us to make decisions that don’t hurt the environment, wildlife, and inhabitants of the places we are visiting.

Lama Alshami

Toronto MU '27

Lama is a first-year journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University living the commuter life. As a writer, Lama hopes to inspire and represent Muslim women in the media and shed light on important issues around the world. If she's not writing, you'll find Lama rewatching 2000s movies, reading historical fiction, listening to Taylor Swift or crocheting.