Mass Tourism: Yet Another Unsustainable Growth Industry
Fifty years ago, aside from a handful of intrepid travelers who were determined to see the world no matter the hardships, only the very wealthy went on holidays and vacations abroad. Today, all that has changed, thanks in large part to the development of the jet airplane. Now, with budget travel, package holidays and no frills airlines, mass tourism is available for virtually all who hanker to travel.
The choices for anyone who wants a week or two in the sun on the beach—or near the beach—in a vast number of holiday destinations is truly extraordinary. If it's sun, sea and some ethnic food you want, you've no end of possibilities.
Yet this mass tourism, for all its ability to take us to places and peoples that we only once read about, has been a mixed blessing. Many once beautiful tranquil fishing villages in Spain, Portugal, Goa and Greece are now filled with row after row of hotels and tourist bungalows, called euphemistically “villas”, cheap jewelry shops, junk trinket stalls and pubs or fast food restaurants serving food that is a poor, and expensive, replica of the worst fare we get at home. In many areas, the summer tourists outnumber the locals, many of whom have abandoned their traditional livelihoods and crafts to work in the tourist “industry”. What were once quaint picturesque villages and towns with individual character are now overrun with holiday makers. Indigenous culture in these blighted places has virtually vanished.
Though millions appear satisfied with such ersatz holidays, many are not. Some seek “something deeper than a suntan” and turn to adventure holidays or special interest holidays like white water rafting, safaris, trekking and mountain climbing.
More recently ecotourism has emerged—destinations where the traveler willing to stay in a tent or forest hut can still find nature, pristine and unspoilt. Others go to work on organic farms, some pick fruit and a few live in with families on an exchange.
These and other alternative holidays are what are now called special interest vacations, and these also include holistic holidays where you can find yoga, Tai Chi and self-development workshops that offer both a holiday and a meaningful experience.
In the Mediterranean area alone there are dozens of such holistic Centres offering up an alternative holiday. Nearly all encourage like-mined people to come together for a week or two to enjoy convivial company, share meals and to return home revived and energised from a meaningful vacation.
An Alternative Holiday is More Than a Holiday
An alternative holiday is more than a holiday, it’s a holiday plus. We have become so isolated in our compartmentalized western lives that it’s a chance to break out of the box, experience a different culture and to meet other like minded folk away from the stresses and strains of our work-a-day lives at home.
An alternative holiday can be even more than this. Bringing together people of similar values, like-minded idealists who are concerned for the health and sustainability of our planet, means that a holiday venue is an opportunity to build a temporary but authentic community and to actually practice living a life that demonstrates the possibility of a new culture of peace, partnership and sustainability.
Yet you might well ask how can a holiday that requires long distance travel with jet aircraft pollution be compatible with sustainability? Of course, it is possible, if you have the time and the money, to reach most of the popular holiday venues overland, and as time passes more people are likely to seek this option as the disparity in price between flying and travel overland decreases, which it inevitably must as the planet's fossil fuel runs out. Price is about supply and demand and our alternative holiday venues must encourage the demand by offering discounts on their programmes to those who elect to come by bus or train.
Use Your Vacation to Save The Earth
Nevertheless, so long as N. Europe and Britain continue to have minimal summers with little sun or warmth people from these countries are going to seek sunshine and warm beaches. Demand for something so fundamental and nourishing, once aroused, does not go away by moral pronouncements. Foreign travel, now well established in the 21st Century is not going to vanish anytime soon, therefore why not use our vacations and holidays to save the earth!
We can travel to Greece, or Turkey or Israel to learn permaculture, to experience living in an ecovillage, to attend workshops in arts and crafts, to join retreats with spiritual teachers, or to be part of conferences and gatherings bringing together people with mutual interests in Gaia and sustainability. Green people need sun, sea and the spirit of community like everyone!
An alternative holiday offers the potential to be a powerful force for networking and for consciousness raising. It can be for each one of us an opportunity to practice living our truth and making it count toward building a new world of nonviolence and peace. This kind of alternative holistic holiday counteracts the alienation that so many feel living isolated lives in cities, doing jobs that pay well, but give little inner fulfillment. Through sharing together, learning together, playing together, and working together—yes, we work on an alternative holiday, cooking our own meals, harvesting vegetables, maintaining the venue—we return home invigorated, refreshed and re-inspirited from a holiday that is truly alternative!
Educational Trainings on Holiday
Craig Gibsone from the Findhorn Community offers an introduction to Ecovillages