Today, a rant of mine was published on Conde Nast that expressed my frustration with being treated so much like a tourist not only in certain parts of Mexico, but in many destinations around the world. Some times and in some places, I don’t feel like a welcome visitor who is encouraged to walk amongst the people and explore and learn, I feel like a tourist who is encouraged to buy things and move on.
As a travel writer and a part of the press, I feel somewhat responsible for how the industry develops in the future given the “watchdog” aspect of journalism in which I believe so strongly. Maybe by pointing things out here and there (and everywhere), I can help it grow organically and authentically. Or at least help a school of thought be heard. There is truth to the claim that certain types of tourism can become viruses that destroy cultures over time, and I have to call it like I see it when I have the chance. For better or worse, that’s how I’ve always been.
As with all things, the sustainable approach is probably the best approach in the long run. Destinations need to learn to focus on what they do best, what makes them unique, instead of slinging souvenirs. There is nothing wrong with creating a resort environment within a destination, but I feel it is a problem once the resort atmosphere becomes the destination. We need to learn how to make these worlds coexist and not be so black and white.
The piece I penned on Jaunted was full of thoughts I had while I was in Puerto Vallarta, after spending almost two weeks roaming the streets and exploring the coastline. It’s not that this experience would prevent me from returning to Puerto Vallarta (I think it has a lot of great opportunities, which I have written about in the past), it just happened to be the place I was when I realized how much that type of tourism takes away from my enjoyment of travel. I understand this is only my opinion and that plenty of people seem to have no problem with any of it, happy for the jobs and opportunities they bring the locals and visitors alike.
Fair enough, but I just don’t buy that at the moment. To me, it seems tourism sometimes splits destinations in half, separating the worlds of residents and visitors instead of having them overlap as I believe they should (and could). It is this line of thinking that has me impressed by the possibilities of people-to-people travel frameworks, such as the immersion that comes along with a concept like Airbnb. There is nothing wrong with indulging, relaxing, treating yourself, or staying at a hotel, but I do believe there is more to traveling than vacationing.
Here is the piece in its entirety if you’d like to check it out. This is the type of thing that could take generations to change, so I’m not so naïve to think it can be resolved overnight, but I also don’t doubt our ability to impact the future when we work together.
I don’t have all the answers, but I figure the first step, as always, is to get the wheels spinning.