Where are you going on holidays this year? What are you going to do in the long weekend? Travelling is becoming such a usual (and inexpensive) thing that we are mixing up leisure with tourism. Is travelling the essential ingredient of holidays? Is it meaningful to talk about sustainable or responsible tourism? With so much globalization it is getting more difficult to distinguish a French man from a German man. Where is the pleasure of travelling?

In the Mediterranean:

  • Modern tourism was born in the Mediterranean, in the French and Italian Riviera of XIX century, (Venice, Nice, Monaco…). Afterwards there arrived the mass tourism of sun and beach. Even now the Mediterranean is one of the main destinations and origin of tourists in the world. For the past three decades of XX century the touristic arrivals to the Mediterranean have been multiplied almost by four (and also those of worldwide tourism).
  • Tourism in the Mediterranean is one third of the world tourism. Spain is the second world destination if we count the visits and the revenues. But it is not distributed in the same way throughout the area: in 2000, the 75% of visits went to France, Spain or Italy, although the destination for such travels is starting to go down and instead, in countries such as Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Malta and Cyprus it has been tripled in twenty years (1980-2000), In these latter countries, tourism is a 20% of their whole economical activity.
  • The tourism coming to the Mediterranean is mainly a leisure one, whereas for example a 40% of travels to Italy are professional ones and to Israel or Morocco there are many travels to see the family or friends (48% and 39% respectively).
  • With regard to the tourists from the Mediterranean, every time there is an increase, mainly from the northern zone. The 72% of French and half of the Israelis and Spanish are travelling on holidays, whereas only a 25% of Turkish and a 10% of Syrians and Egyptians do so. In Morocco, Algeria and Albany they scarcely make tourism.
  • It also happens that people from the northern part of the Mediterranean are travelling more abroad, and the southern ones do it inside the same country (a 97% of the travels to Turkey and a 70% are to see family or friends, without needing neither lodgement nor touristic operators).
  • Also, within the same countries where much tourism is done, there are also many inequalities. A 41% of Spaniards have never travelled abroad, and on the other hand, a 15% does it at least once a year. A 38% has never slept outside their home even a single weekend, or neither to visit their family in the last 3 or 4 years.

There are several reasons to do tourism, to know a place, to widen one’s horizons, to take a rest, to devote ourselves to vital aspects which we consider to be unattended, to give us a treat, to vent stress… We can also travel for more unconscious reasons, as to show a certain status to our vicinity (and to ourselves), or to reinforce our own identity. Let us ask ourselves what we really do need and let us make a plan adapted to ourselves.

How can we go about it:

  • Part of what we are seeking in a travel we can find it also very near, landscapes, knowledge and persons of other cultures, places where to evade ourselves… And we can also “travel” through books, films, documentaries, music…
  • If we have a real need of having a rest, let’s not choose a travel with too much coming and going, or let us think even, about the possibility of staying where we are.
  • Touristic marketing is omnipresent, sometimes subtly hidden in films where they are singing the charms of some places. Be sincere to ourselves. Am I going because I really want to, or not to be less than others, or because it is inexpensive?
  • We should try to equilibrate every day the attention given to different aspects of life that fulfill us, not to accumulate great shortcomings which may need afterwards great solutions.

Tourism is especially violent with our surroundings and deteriorates the landscape: the urbanization, the degradation of natural zones, the transformation of towns, etc. Let us look only the state of the shores of many Mediterranean countries… Avoid the options that provoke big impacts.

How can we go about it:

  • Let us avoid new constructions to lodge us in. Interchange of houses permits us to take the utmost profit of houses and to know better the society we are visiting. Two networks have been set up via internet: InterVac i HomeExchangeGOLD. Some of them give us too the opportunity to live with local hosts: The Hospitality Club, CouchSurfing.
  • There are hotels which provide ecological food or use bio construction elements, for example in Spain, Venus Albir. In the web Environmentally Friendly Hotels we can look for hotels all over the world which are applying criterion of ecological management.
  • If we want to practise rural tourism, the most recommended option would be agro tourism, which does not substitute but complements farming or livestock activities. We can find guide for different countries here, initiatives in France, Spain, Italy, Turkey
  • A particular case of agro tourism is Wwoofing (Opportunities everywhere of Ecological Farms), where the tourist participates in the farming activities of the host farmer in return for accommodation and food. There are participant farms at least in Spain, Israel, Turkey, France, Italy, Morocco, Lebanon, Croatia and Greece.
  • Ecovolunteer organizes travelling to preserve sites of special natural interest and their cultures.

Travels, (mainly those taking us to the destination place) are responsible of quite a great part of the environmental impacts of a travel, especially in emissions of CO2. Let us minimize them.

How can we go about it:

  • Let us go to nearer places than to far away ones. If we go far that it be for many days. We can travel by train, bus or shared car; we can find how to do it here, here… At the destination place, let us find how we can move in public transportation, or rent a bike
  • We can also take advantage of holidays to make a little exercise and use walking routes or by bike, information for Europe at The Bike Tour, Europe by bike or Hitchwiki (also in Northern Africa).
  • At some webs we can also calculate the energetic cost of the different ways of getting around, here (there are many data and very illustratives ones), this one, this one

At many places tourism is seen as a great engine of economy, because it boosts other activities. But a lot of times it generates very precarious jobs often seasonal ones and the revenues are shared in a very unequal way, and even more, in not a few occasions, the local resources are more available to tourists than to local residents.

Mostly, the travel agencies (retailers) sell us the tourist packages made by touristic operators (wholesalers). There are big conglomerates including agencies, operators, hotel chains, airlines, etc., which take the major part of the economical benefit of travels. Let us look for options sharing more with the population of the places we are visiting.

How can we go about it:

  • That it is not sold by an enterprise as foreign as ourselves to the place we are going. Let us choose the services (lodging, guides, food…) offered by the people living there.
  • Let us look near us independent travel agencies and small touristic enterprises, which in general make that money is shared among the local population.
  • Internet is a good tool to find these issues. For example, if we search rural tourism in Morocco we will find this, if we look for non-profit tourism in France, we can come across this… The British organization TourismConcern informs about the social and economical impacts of tourism.
  • We can get informed after the experience of people that have travelled, talking with people we know or also through blogs, this one, this one (only in Spanish), this one, this one on rural tourism (also in Spanish)…
  • If we travel south we can find options of communitarian, responsible or solidarity tourism

A brief tourism may entail a distancing more than a mutual approach among cultures entering in contact: it contributes to feed stereotypes and leaves without contents many cultural events. Let us take some time to savour the culture we are visiting.

How can we go about it:

  • Before and during the travel, let us try to know a little about the culture we are visiting so as to understand it, we should not try to impose either our standards (levels of cleaning, education rules, relations among people, diet, views about time)….Different does not mean better or worse.
  • Contacting with people of that place will allow them to pass from service to hosting. By sure they will be able to let us know things that are not on the guides or at tours.
  • Maybe having seen different ways of making everyday’s things, of commerce, of going from one place to another… than those we know, will suggest us ideas to make a more conscientious consumption when we come back home.
  • The difference in the standard of life between the traveller and the people of the hosting country may be the origin of misunderstandings. Let us be discrete in our clothing (cameras, jewels…) and don’t be haughty when asking or replying. Gifts or tips too important may even create violent situations; let us be as thankful as we are at home, neither more nor less. If we want to collaborate with resources to resolve lacks we detect, it is better to channel them through some local organization.