Each year, the World Tourism Organization (a specialized agency of the United Nations) sponsors a day to highlight tourism around the world. September 27th marks World Tourism Day 2017. The agency designated this year’s as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development to raise awareness for social, economic, and environmental progress with travel. Now more than ever, you should be thinking more about these values as you make your travel plans. Here’s why.
I just returned from a trip to Haida Gwaii, British Columbia and this message rings true to me today, even more than it did a week ago. The indigenous people and locals I encountered on this trip reinstated my belief in government and community, especially in regards to an authentic travel experience that is also respectful.
Because Haida Gwaii is a place of true isolation (with internet and cell service only available in certain areas), you need to trust locals and your fellow travelers to show you the ropes. Many places on the island are uncharted, it’s hard to navigate the islands on your first visit.
Throughout history, the island has struggled with political and cultural differences between the indigenous Haida people (and other island residents) and mainland Canada. But now, tourism is turning over a new leaf for Haida Gwaii: The island chain is happily welcoming visitors from all over the world.
But, this isn’t your typical tourist destination. Before beginning a trip to Haida Gwaii, all visitors need to first understand the Haida culture and history of the island. This is done through a mandatory national park orientation, a visit to the cultural center, and by staying in accommodations that offer immersive experiences.
The population of Haida Gwaii handles tourism on their own terms. It’s a community that still struggles to maintain their identity, but are standing up for sustainable tourism. This is the model other places should follow. Haida Gwaii’s travel philosophy may be unique, but it’s one of the reasons that respectful and responsible tourism is spreading.
Now, more than ever, I encourage you to #TravelEnjoyRespect.
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