My Hopes for the Future of Travel

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Krka Waterfall

The following branded content post is brought to you by the World Travel and Tourism Council. I’m a big fan of their sustainable tourism mission and I’m always happy to join them in sharing how we can travel more responsibly.

What is next in travel? Talk to anyone about the future and they’ll talk about technology. Are we going to see virtual reality, even online payment at street food carts in Southeast Asia?

I have so many hopes for the future of travel. Here’s what I would like to see:

Mykines Island

Meaningful action on climate change.

Climate change is decimating communities around the world. People are losing homes where their families have lived in generations — from the Arctic to the Gulf Coast and throughout the world.

The Maldives are vulnerable. So are Tuvalu, Tonga, and other low-lying atolls. The Netherlands could be in jeopardy. And Louisiana has borne quite a bit of damage this century so far.

Climate change is also related to weather disruption, including hurricanes and typhoons, that first destroy communities, then their economies.

Climate change can only work on a global scale. So far, positive actions are taking place, like the Paris Agreement, but in the next decade I hope our leaders take more concrete steps to protect our only planet.

Mindil Beach Markets

Easier ways to support small businesses.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen budding travel entrepreneurs eliminate the middleman and start their own businesses. Uber turns ordinary people into drivers; Airbnb turns homes into guesthouses; EatWith turns home chefs into restaurateurs. Hell, I even became a tour guide thanks to starting a travel blog!

Technology has made it easier for people to take control of their own financial destiny. That said, I almost feel like something’s missing. While a lot of individually owned businesses have exploded, I feel like the small guesthouses, coffeeshops and restaurants have almost fallen behind in the tech boom.

Much of the time, we’re only finding these places through social media. Foursquare, Yelp, TripAdvisor. I feel like there could be a better way to find and financially support local businesses. I expect more start-ups to pop up that will help these businesses.

Tobacco Caye, Belize

Thoughtful travel recommendations from the travel influencer community.

At this point in time, few travel influencers will make a stand against visiting certain destinations. And not enough will use their influence to get travelers to visit destinations in need. That needs to change.

Now, does that mean every travel influencer should have the same beliefs? Not at all. But I think we could do better. Making a stand isn’t going to cut off your income, for one.

For me personally, I’ve talked about how North Korea is off the table, because I believe that tourism as it currently exists in North Korea cannot be done ethically.

I also won’t travel to North Carolina or promote travel in North Carolina as long as HB2 is in effect, a law that forces transgender people to use the bathroom aligning with the sex listed on their birth certificate under the beliefs that this could prevent sexual assault. (This is atrocious and has no basis in reality, by the way.) The same law allows businesses to discriminate.

These are for two reasons: because I want to spend my money in places will it will do more good than harm, and because as an influencer, every dollar I spend in a destination can turn into fifty or more from other travelers following in my footsteps. Everything we do is amplified.

But it’s not just about telling people not to visit places — we can have a positive effect, too. So far this year, I’ve encouraged people to travel to Nepal, which is still suffering economically from last year’s earthquake; to Louisiana, which has dealt with severe flooding, only second to Hurricane Katrina in terms of devastation; and to Belize, whose islands were damaged in a hurricane earlier this year.

Yes, places receive money after disasters (though how much varies widely). There are nonprofits; there’s international aid; there’s the Red Cross. But these organizations do nothing for the B&B owners or restaurant managers who aren’t receiving enough visitors to financially get by.

When we encourage people to travel to places in need, we are doing our part to keep businesses afloat.

Berat Albania

Interesting new travel hotspots.

What will some of the new major travel destinations be in a few years?

I have no doubt that Colombia and Albania will be huge destinations five years from now. Both are already growing their tourism at a fast rate and have so much potential. You could argue that Myanmar is a step or two ahead of them in the tourism game. And we all know Cuba is awaiting a massive influx of American tourists.

And to be honest, so many travel bloggers have written about the emerging budget travel scene in the Maldives that I’m sick of reading about it already!

At the same time, there are destinations that could become less popular. Terrorism fears could drive tourists away from France and Turkey, both victims of so many tragedies in the past few years.

But I strongly believe that the good will outweigh the bad. Because if there’s anything that travel has taught us, it’s that people are good.

The World Travel and Tourism Council, for whom I wrote about freedom to travel in 2015, have now created a new video about the future of sustainable travel. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Redefine Tourism from WTTC on Vimeo.

What do you hope for travel in the future?

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36 thoughts on “My Hopes for the Future of Travel”

  1. YES to all of this. So important as travelers to choose wisely where to spend our money. I really got a first hand look at the damage tourism can bring while traveling in Central America. Not to say that we shouldn’t get the occasional coffee from a foreign-owned business, but it’s really important to support the local economy in places we travel to. And sustainable travel isn’t just a buzz word, it’s a necessity if we want to keep our planet travel-able! I know that’s not a word, but still..Always interested in how I can be a more sustainability conscious traveler, so thanks for opening the convo!

    1. Piggybacking off of Eva, your article has sparked a really interesting point and a much needed check-in from all who travel. Tourism pumps in a lot of money into cities so it is helpful to visit and promote smaller cities or less popular destinations.

      As I travel, I’ve been relying less on apps like Yelp and TripAdvisor because I think there’s something charming and mysterious about discovering restaurants on your own and not by popular consensus. The days before technology, I feel like people ask locals for recommendations and I’ve started to do exactly that. Plus it makes for a good convo starter to chat with a stranger.

      1. I agree with both of these girls! It is so important to support the local economy in whatever cities and countries we travel. They often depend economically on tourists contributions. I also think climate change needs to be more focused on in terms of travel. In U.S. cities like New York and international cities in Bejing, it’s extremely important to make travel as sustainable as possible. I love this post and that you are trying to start a conversation about what we can do as passionate travelers to make the world a better place!

  2. Oh your ‘I’m so offended’ personality is incredibly annoying. Boycotting a state because trans people cant use their preferred bathrooms? If a ‘woman’ at 6ft and built like a shit-brick house with a strong jaw and deep voice decides to pop into my bathroom, I’d not be too happy with it, likewise when a man is having a wizz at a urinal and someone who was very clearly born a woman walks in, it makes people uncomfortable. The ‘gender fluidity’ that’s occurring could so easily be used by the wrong people to take advantages of situations like that, I’m glad that some places are standing up to it. Whats the point of even having separate bathrooms if I could just say I’m a man and walk on in? It makes no bloody sense to me, seriously, if someone could clarify that’d be awesome.

    Also, you mentioned a while ago that you thought Stephen King was was not diverse enough in his reading habits. Your reading choices are over 2 thirds female, and of the male ones, less than half of them are white. And you’ve mentioned not even wanting to read a few of those. One could assume that you deliberately eschew white male writers? And yet no-one would ever claim that. People need to calm down, who cares what books King chooses to read? It’s very unlikely that he’s specifically choosing white males over others, people see offence where ever they want these days, political correctness has went wayyyyy off the scale. And it’s blogs like this that promote it, it saddens me, cause I like the travel bit.

    1. Megan, think about it this way: Let’s say I’m someone who was born a biological female but I identify as a male, so I use hormone therapy and possibly surgeries to transition into a male. I have facial hair, a deep voice, I dress like a man, and my body looks like a man’s body. As far as anyone can tell, I am and always have been a man. Oh, I’m also sexually attracted to women. But, because I was born as a female, I’m forced by law to use the women’s restroom. Wouldn’t that be an extremely uncomfortable situation for everyone involved, both for me and for you?

      Likewise, what if I was born a biological male but identify as and look/dress like a female – don’t you think that would turn a few heads when I stroll into the men’s restroom? Also, imagine how you would feel if you were forced to use the men’s restrooms when out in public – because that’s exactly how trans women feel.

      People who have transitioned to the opposite sex are not always “very clearly” transgender (check out this link for just one example of a transgender man who would be forced to use the women’s restroom in NC): http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/life/76752655/Transgender-man-to-appear-on-the-cover-of-Mens-Health-Germany

      1. Oh I don’t have anything against trans people, and I don’t believe that this law is perfect either, but there should be a cut-off point, in my opinion.
        If someone is transexual, had surgery or close to considering it, and has had a couple of years of hormone therapy, then by all means they should be able to use their preferred bathroom, I think the law goes too far in that it’s too restrictive, but I also think that allowing someone to decide on a whim that they are a specific gender, and therefore have the benefits of that gender, is unfair. I guess it’s the non-binary aspect that I have trouble with. Pick one, please.

        I just dont think boycotting the state because of the law is the way to go. If bathrooms are gendered, then there should be some sort of structure that constitutes that gender, the hormones or surgery perhaps, rather than the birth certificate. Or make bathrooms unisex and be done with it.

    2. I guess I’m not sure why the shared bathroom thing bothers you, Megan? In many parts of the world, developed countries included, bathrooms are unisex with individual stalls for privacy. After all, everybody poops. The biggest problem with HB2 is that it legalizes discrimination in the work place.

      Choosing diversity in literature is not about being politically correct — it’s an attempt to broaden your horizons to read and understand the experiences of people who’ve had very different lives from you. Personally I have no issue if King chooses to only read what he can relate to. Many people do it because it’s less taxing emotionally. But by exploring experiences that are very different from our own, we can actually broaden our understanding of the world — travel without traveling — and realize that “political correctness” isn’t a dirty phrase, but is in fact an attempt to unify — to separate the idea of “them” vs. “us” — which is something that travel does as well. Does that make sense?

      1. Oh the sharing bathrooms doesn’t bother me, a few places in my town have unisex bathrooms, and that’s fine. But if you’re going to have gendered bathrooms, then there should be a set gender that uses them, otherwise what’s the point?
        I mean that if I was in a woman’s only bathroom and a man walked in, that would be more disconcerting because it’s clearly labelled for females, and vice versa, unisex bathrooms aren’t actually a bad idea in my book, they dissolve a lot of these issues.

        And I’m all for diversity in literature, I love it actually, the last 20 or so books I’ve read have been by foreign writers, mostly Middle Eastern and Asian, what I don’t understand is judging people for reading what they want, King should be allowed to read tons of books by white men without it being insinuated that he’s mysoginisitc or racist or doing it purposefully to avoid other groups, this is what I mean about political correctness, It’s just too easy to find offence if you look for it, if you don’t, it’s not there nearly as often.

  3. Regarding to Megan’s message.. I agree with Megan…and yes, I do love to travel and be open minded, no need to listen your opinions…. We all are human beings with free mind….

  4. I’m looking forward to wider-reaching education about sustainable travel practices, and I think blogs are going to be a big part of that. I always wanted to ride an elephant, thinking this a completely benign activity. By accident – browsing a generalist blog – I learned about the abuse that the animals suffer at the hands of the handlers who provide these “services,” and how many elephants are killed in the process. Now I would never ride an elephant. At the same time the blog provided alternative options for interacting with these animals and observing them in a healthy way. Trusted, influential bloggers can do a lot of good this way, and hopefully the readers will spread the word too. Thanks to digital and particularly social media it’s never been easier.

  5. I agree with Anna, I am looking forward to more information about “healthy” tourism. There are so many tourists who ride elephants for fun or who literally invade a region and make it almost un-liveable for the locals (e.g. because of their trash, partying, etc.). It is either because they don’t care or because they are not aware of the consequences and I hope this will change in the future.

    I am also a bit sceptical when it comes to the new businesses. AirBnb was a brilliant idea but it’s getting to a point where locals can not afford living in the city anymore as landlords make more money with AirBnb than with regular tenants. Or Couchsurfing: it used to be a beautiful community but now it is crowded with creeps who just try to have someone for their bed.

    I hope that there will be less taking advantage on both sides: that tourists will be more aware and thoughful of their actions and on the other hand, that tourists are not the reason of unsustainable business and/or nasty habits.

  6. While some (per previous comments) may be turned off by the way you openly talk about social justice issues, for me it makes me like your blog that much more. A lot of bloggers choose to avoid serious/political issues all together, which I do understand to an extent – you don’t want to alienate the audience that pays your bills. But on the other hand, as you said, you have a unique platform to share your views and to potentially influence others. And I appreciate that as you’ve learned more about social justice issues, you’ve shared that with your readers. Travel sometimes feels like an inherently selfish and privileged pursuit – I do it because it makes me happy and fulfilled, and because I have the resources to – but you are demonstrating that we can also use that privilege to let our travels open our minds and make us more compassionate. Ultimately, I think this is what travel should be – not checking things off a bucket list, but learning to appreciate our shared humanity. And then using that understanding to figure out how we can make the world a better place for everyone. So all that to say – I don’t know where travel is going, but I hope that conversations like these are a big part of it!

  7. Good on you Kate!

    I agree with your thoughts about travel recommendations from lesser known destinations and support when a natural disaster or otherwise, has taken place. It’s important that people on the ground give an open-minded but honest opinion, of what they see.

    I write tirelessly about the importance of not letting fear override your wish to visit any country on the European continent regardless of terrorism or earthquakes. Havng said that, I also write about the fact that we DO have terrorism, earthquakes, flooding, vocanic eruption, chaotic politics etc. That’s important too. The full picture as far as we know it. And as a result, people should, and do have to make their own choices.

    I’m utterly against the drive to forbid anything unless it’s against human right law. As a result if Kate chooses not to visit North Carolina, North Korea, or anywhere else, that is her right. And her choice. On the other hand, if you think that’s utter bollocks that’s your right. And your choice too. It’s not your right to attack an individual. Go, or don’t go.

    Do research, see for yourself, experience that life, then make up your own mind.

  8. Interesting post! I definitely hope there are easier ways to support smaller businesses in the future. Like you said, in order to discover said-businesses, you need to rely a lot on services such as Yelp and Trip Advisor. Personally, I’m trying to support these places in my daily life in NJ. For example, I found the coolest family-owned coffee shop this weekend and will make a point to visit often now that I know it’s there.

  9. I just think its funny that you talk so much about supporting small businesses in third-world countries that have worse governments than the U.S., but you’re going to penalize small businesses in North Carolina. I couldn’t care less about the HB2 law – let people use whatever bathroom they want to but get in and get out so there’s no issues on either side – but the hypocrisy is not appreciated. My problem with everything you’ve said here is that I came to your site for a travel blog. If I wanted to see all the political propaganda, I would’ve gone to another site. Its your choice how you want to position your blog, but you need to make it clear so that your readers can choose whether they want to stay or not.

  10. Interesting perspective.

    I like most of your points but have to wonder about your point about thoughtful travel spots – you won’t go to certain places like N. Carolina, but encourage travel to Nepal — a country that allows young children, especially girls, to be married off to adults. There are programs to teach elementary and middle school girls how to use condoms for when they wed their adult husband at the moment. Also, Nepal’s protections against women who have been sexually assaulted is laughable. Just wondering why Nepal gets a pass but other places don’t? This is just one country that you’ve visited with human rights issues.

    I don’t hold the same philosophy of refusing to go anywhere with human rights violations — I would go anyways and discuss the problems — but it’s interesting to know where the line would be drawn for people who do. What acts are OK and not OK?

    1. I really like this point, if we were going to boycot anywhere that didn’t comply exactly with our moral standards, we wouldn’t get very far. Heck, most of us would have to boycot our own countries!
      And it’s kind of irksome that people choose what appear to be less important issues as well. As you’ve mentioned, kids being forced to get married? Or people being forced to use a certain bathroom? I know which one I’d rather eradicate first, but realistically travel boycots don’t do much except take your travel monies away from restaurants and businesses that probably don’t agree with the law in the first place. Although North Korea is definitely understandable, cause it’s going straight to the corrupt government.

  11. This is a topic that interests me deeply, and something I’ve wished more travel influencers would focus on rather than just the occasional fiery post about elephants or dolphins. My degree is actually in environmental geoscience, and back in college I had wild dreams about working in the realm of sustainable development and tourism. Somewhere that was pushed by the wayside — mostly because the study at the time would have required a move to Australia, which had the only existing sustainable tourism programs — but it’s nice to see these long-term issues being brought to the forefront, especially with how influencer marketing has grown as an industry.

  12. I am so curious as to which new destinations blow up! I think Africa’s tourism will continue to grow, especially in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia… all of which I can’t wait to go to!

  13. I’ve never read through all the other comments on your posts Kate. Some of these are bananas.

    Jesus ladies, if you don’t like the posts, go somewhere else. There are only like a billion travel blogs.

    For me personally, my best friend lives in North Carolina, and I need to go see her. If I did, I would write about it. But my inluence is small to non-existant. It would be a heavy thing to know that you tell people about a place and they will go there.

    1. The point of a comments section isn’t just to praise a blogger. I don’t have to agree with everything Kate writes to still enjoy her blog and any decent writer should welcome having their opinions challenged.

  14. If you are really concerned about climate change, I encourage you to educate yourself on veganism and watch the documentary “Earthlings” (I think it’s still on Netflix). Animal agriculture is the #1 source of carbon pollution, deforestation, and fresh water scarcity in the world. Climate change is literally driven and exacerbated by animal agriculture. A vegan or “plant based” lifestyle is not only cruelty-free and excellent for your health, but will also be making an enormous environmental impact. Any environmentalist who is serious about making a change in the world should adopt a vegan lifestyle. Please please check it out!

    1. I don’t plan on going full vegan, and I don’t think that’s realistic for most people, but I do agree that if people cut meat out of their diet even one day per week that the planet would be better off for it.

  15. Love the part about supporting small businesses.

    When we were in Mexico for 6 weeks we tried our best to support the locals and stay away from big chains. We ate at a mom and pop street stand almost every night. I noticed the owner’s wife and children coming by to just hang out every night. We wondered if they didn’t have anywhere else to go. We decided to leave them a 500 peso tip (enough for 10 of our meals) and for the first time since we had been there, the owner was off the next day, we hope spending time with his family.

    You never know just how little can help so much.

  16. I strongly agree to your point of view supporting small businesses. Tourism industry of any country can play a big role in supporting small businesses which will also help in generating more revenue for that country.

  17. Couldn’t agree more about your opinion, especially about supporting small bussiness to grow and give them a chance to become bigger. I really like the way you thinking.

    Cheers,

  18. My concern re climate change aligns with yours, Kate. Sadly, it is inevitable the face of travel (and of the world) will have to drastically change in the coming year. I still hold faith for humanity, though, that we can do something together to mitigate the effects of climate change. As for travel, adventure will always be there 🙂

  19. Yes. This is such a thoughtful post, Kate. The more we can support small businesses and entrepreneurs, the better. As travelers, we need to spend more time considering where our travel dollars are going. By traveling in a local style to places where we believe our dollars make a difference, we can all have a positive impact on the world.

  20. I agree with you. I have a small tourism agency in my country and every day is more difficult to compete with online sites such as booking and big agencies like despegar in my area. I hope we can continue growing. I like your blog, it is great for all we love to travel. Hugs from Argentina.

  21. I have the same opinion. Its a difficult time for small agencies. Big companies like booking or expedia have an advantage over local travel offices. But anything can happen in the future. Nice article

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