Why I love Regional Tourism Planning

Tourism is often a very dirty word. Nobody wants to be a tourist per se, they would always much rather be a traveler, a cultural ambassador, maybe even (gasp) a visitor … but never a tourist.

Perhaps it is a dirty word because it is associated with voyeurism, or because it is associated with pure Leisure, something western civilization’s party-poopers have been fighting against since the Greek word was invented. Don’t believe me? Check out one of the most important 20th century philosophy books you have never read: Leisure, the Basis of Culture.

However, probably the biggest reason Tourism sounds dirty to so many ears is that it leaves an indelible mark on everyone it touches, and often not in a positive way. If mismanaged, left unchecked, or the planning process excludes local guidance, Tourism can potentially end up devastating livelihoods, create social ills and pollution, and destroy a community’s sense of place and character.

photo courtesy of Sterneck’s flickr photostream: Hurghada behind the Facades

Like, whoa.

Sure, we like to travel. But the tired cliché that humans are possessed with finding out what is over the next hill is not always true: many of us are quite content in our very own security bubble. Sun, Sand and Surf are the biggest reason why we travel anyway.

So why even bother with tourism and all of the potential downsides? We must be tourists. Why? To bring about world peace, silly!

Like, whoa.

And I am not alone in thinking that Tourism can bring about world peace: UNESCO does, UNWTO does, National Geographic does, and the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism definitely does. But, as I said earlier, Tourism can be a very, very, very detrimental thing to a lot of people and our planet.

This is why I love Regional Tourism Planning!

Over my next few posts, I will explain what Tourism really is and how, as planners, urbanists, and yes, as tourists, we can help bring about world peace.

Now that is what I call a cliffhanger.

Personal note: I started traveling abroad as soon as I turned 18. I initially was training to become an architect in college, but after my first backpacking trip, I was blown away at what the outside world had to offer. However I also saw the very dark sides of tourism: the exploitation, the environmental degradation and the cultural consumption. Upon returning from my first trip, I switched my studies to Tourism and Urban Planning and haven’t looked back since. I knew tourism was going to happen (and as I later discovered, should happen), so I wanted to know how I could make it an equitable and educational experience for both visitor and local. Now, let’s start sharing ideas!

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One Comment on “Why I love Regional Tourism Planning”

  1. Syed S. Ahmed September 4, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    I can’t wait to see your future posts on thsi topic. I find world historical sites and natural wonders run over by tourists.


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