the state of travel

Looking back, the urge to travel is always there deep down in our hearts. To discover new destinations and explore places with fresh perspectives, hoping to learn more about cultures beyond our bubbles and getting to know locals that are more than happy to share part of their lives with us. But ever since it’s been more than a year that we were forced to stay in and stay put, we, just like most travellers, are fuelled with the urge to escape the confinements of “micro lockdown” and the new socially enforced world we currently live in.

Let’s rewind a little, to a time before all this. The fast-paced world where we still have the privilege of going beyond borders may seem like an ideal time to be in. Travel had finally become even more accessible due to increased affordability, economic development, and also the internet. New places had become easier to discover due to social media, prices for travel which includes transportation as well as accommodation kept getting lower as a result of price competitiveness between destinations and service providers, and hence the demand for it then simply skyrocketed.

While it has been great for us on a personal level, the development of mass tourism has more often than not led to a negative cultural exchange, whereas economical growth outweighed the significance of community welfare. A clear example is evident in Indonesia, where the dilemma lies between the potential of tourism becoming the fuel to reduce poverty but also the main factor in damaging our fragile ecosystem.

In 2019, a total of 16.1 million foreign tourists visited Indonesia, falling short of the government’s plan of attracting 20 million visitors to the country. In the following year, as the pandemic hits, it has wiped out around Rp 85 trillion (US$5.87 billion) of the nations’ tourism revenue as of July 2020 alone*. So it only made sense for the government to build a strategy that would lessen the impact of coronavirus, which was to allocate much of their budget to pay ‘influencers’ to promote the country – much to everyone’s dismay.

Statistics aside, tourism can truly be beneficial for local populations. By prioritising empowering local businesses, most importantly businesses connected to local supply chains, tourism will have a long-standing impact on communities. In doing so, travellers, local people, and their communities would go on and create a continuous positive exchange that would benefit all. But without strict regulations in place, massive property developments related to tourism pose a threat to our important ecosystems and are known to strain the surrounding environment such as contributing to a growing water crisis and causing widespread coral damage in Bali.

All things considered, the pandemic provides a unique moment for us to reexamine how the world works. Perhaps we’ve been doing things wrong this whole time, and now is the chance for us to reset and look at things from afar. By talking about tourism, which funnily enough is the one thing we couldn’t do for quite a while, we seek to explore the problems that have been overlooked and the opportunities that lay ahead.

*Source: The Jakarta Post

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