Tourism is usually seen in a positive light: fancy destinations and money spending tourists that bring wealth to the country. But tourism also brings people who try to profit from the tourists in a questionable way.
During my travels I’ve come across 6 major problems that come along tourism. These are surely not the only ones but these are the ones I want to bring up. They are also the ones that make me see red when I travel.
Watch out for scams!
A scam is one form of fooling tourists. The scams I have faced happened both in Thailand. In Bangkok, around the famous Grand Palace, taxi drivers will tell you it is Buddha day and the temple is closed. But luckily the driver knows another temple that is open for visitors and is more than happy to take you there. The taxi journey ends into a jewellery shop where the items sold are fake. All the people that the tourists meet on this journey to the temple are part of the scam. I encountered this scam when I was visiting Bangkok. I heard when a taxi driver told tourists that it’s a Buddha day and the temple isn’t open and the tourists hopped on to that taxi. So don’t believe everything the local people tell you and learn in advance about the culture and the coming festivals. If you want to see this type of scam in action, I highly suggest watching a tv show called Scam City.
Taxi mafia running the streets
Another big problem in Thailand is taxi pricing. Taxis are owned by only a handful of people who are able to set fixed prices for the taxis. This problem is extremely bad in Phuket. Locals call the taxi service a taxi mafia. It’s not only the prices of the taxis that have been set high but the taxi drivers don’t get a chance for their own business. They have to obey the “mafia”.
I cannot suggest taking taxi to anywhere there since the prices are set so high. Yet I understand that you need to be able to move around by some means and then taxi/tuktuk (same mafia running both) can be the only way to get from one place to another. I know, there’s nothing you can do as a traveler in this kind of situation but it annoys me so much that I wanted to bring it up.
Counterfeit products come with a risk
Tourism also brings fake products to the market. It’s not the worst phenomenon that tourism has brought and many travelers enjoy buying fake Guess and other brands from a market stall. What doesn’t always cross our minds is that fake products are often illegal to take through customs in your home country even so be careful with these products. Also avoid buying any particles from an animal since they might come from endangered species.
Fake products are often illegal to take through customs.
Let’s not support animal businesses
When talking about animals please make sensible decisions about animal shows and different animal ridings. I know in Thailand for instance there are sustainable places to go elephant trekking/bathing where they treat animals well but then there are some questionable places.
Easy rule to follow is that if you first see a baby elephant captured for taking pictures please avoid it. I would also suggest avoiding the animal shows because the animals aren’t often treated right. I’m not a fan of zoos or aquariums either because the animals are often kept in small cages. But what I hate the most are the animals that are brought to the tourist streets for people to take pictures with them. The animals are often drugged to keep them calm in the middle of the crowds. Please at least avoid these animals and do not take pictures with them!
Give your money to local businesses!
Tourism brings money, prices rise and international chains arrive. Tourists use the services of international chains leaving the locals are struggling. So basically the living standards of the locals don’t meet the expenses because most of the money falls in to the pockets of international chains.
This has happened for example in Phuket. When the Russians found Phuket a few years back as their travel destination the prices rose yearly. Local people were suffering to make the ends meet with their paycheck. The best way to help is by choosing the local hotels, restaurants and other service providers instead of international chains.
Don’t take drugs – seriously!
One downside of tourism is drugs. When there are tourists and money there are also drugs. The eye-opening experience for me was in Lisbon where in the bright daylight near one famous monument men came to sell drugs to me and my friend. I was surprised how visible and open it was. So my suggestion is to stay away from drugs when travelling abroad (and in general, of course). It might seem obvious but I’m serious about this. The sentence might be much longer than in your home country.
These were examples of the negative issues caused by tourism that have a direct impact on travelers. I know I’m leaving out other negative side effects like child labour and sex tourism but I wanted to give you a short list where you can make a difference with a small effort.
Just remember to keep your own eyes open and read about the local culture and festivals beforehand.
Be careful – even paradise has its dangers!
Also take a look at my article on how media affects our traveling behaviour!