Sun, sea, beach, relaxation, hotels, airplanes, sightseeing… All things you think about when it comes to tourism, right? But this industry involves so much more than that.
Tourism is all about people -from all layers of society- destinations, experiences, environments and even governments. It has social, cultural, economic and political value. To emphasize the importance of this industry in all of the previous mentioned facets, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) introduced World Tourism Day in 1980.
The date, every year on 27th September, was chosen since it indicates the end of the high season in the northern hemisphere and the beginning of the season in the southern hemisphere. On this day, we celebrate tourism, and maybe even more importantly, we address the eight Millennium Development Goals set up by the United Nations:
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Achieve universal primary education
- Promote gender equality and empower women
- Reduce child mortality
- Improve maternal health
- Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- Ensure environmental sustainability
- Global partnership for development
We leave our footprints with everything we do. Tourism in general leaves an enormous footprint on planet Earth and can have drastic consequences. ‘Sustainability’ is a word often related to tourism, as we want “to develop tourism in the most sustainable way possible”. But what does the word ‘sustainability’ actually mean? It’s a vague concept, but simply put it means that tourism needs to take full account of the economic, political, cultural, social and environmental impacts it has. An almost undoable task, made harder even by people and government’s personal interests and corruption.
But I’m not here to only point out the negative aspects of the industry. Tourism is two-faced. World Tourism Day is also a day of celebration. The WTD blogger competition for example showcases some of the success stories of this incredible industry. From voluntourism to community development and from community based tourism to rewarding traveling experiences, it’s all there.
My life and tourism
I have a rather long history when it comes to the concept of ‘tourism.’ About 16 years ago, when I was six, I started playing ‘travel agency.’ What I did was getting all the travel brochures my parents had collected over the years and an old computer keyboard out and I got creative with crayons and paper.
My parents and friends had to browse through the travel brochures, I would ‘check’ availability for them and ‘book’ their hotel and flight ticket. I even gave them some extra information about the destination they were traveling too (all made up with that crazy imagination of mine) and print their flight tickets (writing down some random letters and numbers on a piece of paper).
Later on, I became really interested in meeting people from abroad and learning about other cultures. That’s why I started to look for pen pals online and joined the travel website Virtual Tourist (‘’Meeting the People Behind the Places’’).
Sightseeing and exploring new areas have always been great passions of me, ever since I can remember. It’s probably because of all these reasons that I knew for certain at the age of 12 that I wanted to study tourism. I was then also over the moon with joy when I was accepted at 17 at NHTV University of Applied Sciences for the course International Tourism Management and Consultancy.
I’ve spent four beautiful years there in Breda, studying together with people from all over the world and doing fieldwork in Bulgaria, Cambodia and Vietnam and a work placement in London.
There’s also magic where you live
But is it necessary to travel half the world to create those valuable memories? Not at all. Just go out there and stroll around your hometown. Try to look at it with a different perspective. That building actually looks pretty nice from this angle… That square reminds me a bit of that square we visited last summer in Florence…
Search online for things to visit in your area. Try to arrange a meet-up with a local who can guide you around in an area you’re might already familiar with, but never really looked at this closely. Get inspired by recommendations given by others. I actually have a photo album on my Facebook page, called tourist in own region, featuring pictures of towns and places in the Netherlands and Belgium. Still lack that bit of an open view? Get friends over from abroad who never visited your country before!
Seriously, that’s what I did this summer! They gave me the opportunity to look at my own country with a complete new set of eyes. Things I’ve always taken for granted, are the things that they noticed as being something special. I always thought for example that people might find our country boring nature-wise, because it’s absolutely flat, other than those wannabe hills in the south. But then my friend suddenly called out on in surprise: ‘’There’s so much water in this country. It’s unbelievable!’’ So I guess we might not have mountains, but at least we do have enough lakes, rivers and of course the sea to get that bit of diversity in our landscape. This is just one of the many eye openers that struck me this summer. And all because of these two girls!
The thing with tourism is, everyone has a certain kind of association with it. Whether it’s positive or negative, there are plenty of examples of tourism in your area, your own personal traveling experiences or maybe even your experience with volunteer work you’ve done. We at Ugly Ducklings Inc would love to hear your stories and start the discussion right here. Share your stories in the comment box below or send us a picture of what tourism means to you. Tweet it to @UDucklingsInc and don’t forget to add the #WTD2014 hashtag.
So there’s that. On World Tourism Day I hope we can all join in and celebrate this amazing phenomenon that tourism is, and that we don’t forget the enormous impact it has, all around us, wherever we look.
Find out more about World Tourism Day and how you can get involved.