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Eat, Stay, Buy Locally: Treading Lightly on the Road

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Between the intricate shrines of Angkor Wat, the diverse landscapes of the countryside and the kindness of its people — and despite the horrors of its recent history — Cambodia knocks a lot of people off their feet. It certainly had that effect on me when I first visited a few years ago and then again when I returned this winter. Yet it was impossible not to notice the school-age children begging barefoot at the major tourist sites, underage local women escorting Western men on sex tours, and the proliferation of seemingly unsustainable large-scale resorts being built on the pristine southern coast.

It’s a classic traveler’s question, one that is especially pronounced in developing or poor countries: Is your visit to a destination ultimately helping or hurting the place and its people? Is it possible to travel ethically in such places? By Ondine Cohane. Read more.

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I was equally surprised, delighted and impressed that Mr. Ehlers introduced the term “Turismo Consciente” as the theme of our deliberations today because, quite independently of Mr. Ehlers, I put together the words “conscious” and “travel” in my own thoughts and writings just about two years ago. I had been developing a community – based program called Places That Care. Frustrated at the slow speed with which the tourism industry was adopting sustainable practices, I was looking for evidence that a market might exist for providers who took responsibility for protecting the natural and cultural environment on which they depended. I came across a significant body of international research – not in tourism, I might add – that showed how many consumers were responding to the fateful events of 2007 – 2008 when the global economy fell on its knees. The recession accelerated a shift that had begin in the late 70s in which a growing segment of the population had decided that “mindless consumption” wasn’t for them. A snippet from a report by Ogilvy and Mather jumped out at me:

 

It is an undeniable fact: The recession has created not only a universal sense of anxiety and fear, but a greater level of consciousness across all ages and genders. We can’t go back. We have heightened our perception; we are awake, aware and alert – whether we like it or not.

 

As I associate the state of being awake, aware and alert with being conscious, you can imagine my curiosity peaked upon discovering another research study, conducted quite independently, that described a new, post –recessionary consumer as being a Conscious Consumer. Not long after that, I was introduced to the groundbreaking work of some very successful business men and women (owners and senior executives of companies such as Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines, Amazon, Google, Patagonia etc) who were calling themselves “Conscious Capitalists” and I began to imagine what a “conscious traveler” might look like. I created the blog Conscious Travel to share these observations; to sense what reaction they evoked and to create a space where the concept could incubate and develop.

In my mind, the concept of Conscious Travel has three forms: by Anna Pollock. Read More.

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Poorism tourism: A highly unethical new trend in travel?

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Those seeking a chance to see how the other half live, can now pay to go on special tours of the poorest neighbourhoods in the world. “Poorism” is the latest trend in tourism that invites people to find authenticity in a destination by looking at its most impoverished areas. Some examples of the tours include a trip to the Bronx, Brazil’s Favelas, the townships of South Africa and New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. While this type of tourism strives for authenticity, some are coming out and saying it is unethical and exploitative voyeurism.  

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