This month marks 6 months since I left England. Since February I have spent 2 weeks in Valencia, visited refugee camps in Lebanon, and spent an Easter break in Andorra. All whilst settling into the Catalan capital of Barcelona and making it my home.
Barcelona is an amazing city and is definitely on my list of the top cities in the world. But since I have been here I am starting to see that it seems to be on top of everyone else’s list too.
Barcelona is constantly in the news talking about its tourism problem. Signs saying ‘tourists go home’ are dotted near Park Güell and on the metro. It’s blatantly obvious that some of the locals don’t appear to think that tourism is good for the city. And with many being pushed out of their homes because they can’t afford the rent, I totally get it.
Having spent a night working in an Irish Bar in the busy tourist area, I have seen first-hand how drunk tourists don’t treat the city or its residents with respect and it makes me ashamed to be a Brit when I see groups of British stag parties roaming the streets hammered.
An official sign on the tourist mecca of La Rambla saying “Your holidays, our everydays,” reminds tourists that this may be their holiday but this city is also the resident’s home.
And it’s not just Barcelona that is making a stand. Mallorca, San Sebastian and other places in Spain are starting to protest against tourists.
But yet with the mass of cruise ship tourism, cheap airlines and countries such as France and Turkey being affected by * terrorism, Spain seems to be one of the countries that is attracting the tourists.
* Update – As I publish this post Barcelona has just made the news for a different reason – the terrorist attack in La Rambla. Being in this city at this time is a mixture of emotions as the city stands defiant and aims to get back to normal. My heart goes out to all the families affected by this horrible event.
I have only written one post on Barcelona and last month I questioned what I was doing. If I write any more am I adding to the tourism problem here? If I write about anywhere am I making a negative impact on tourism?
As I look at other blogs I can see that bloggers are talking about their influence on the travel industry. Do bloggers have an impact? Yes. And it is up to us to use our influence wisely.
After being awarded one of the Top 100 Solo Travel Blogs by Feedspot, I feel I have even more of a responsibility to do what I can for tourism.
I partner with Visit.org, The Code.org, and Tourism Concern, to promote ethical tourism, protect children from sex tourism, and help sustainable projects across the world. As one of the Travel Aware partners with the UK Foreign Office I help provide advice on how to stay safe abroad. But is it enough? Can I help to change the way that people travel?
Travel influence seems to be a trendy topic but there isn’t anything trendy about it. It’s always been there but maybe people are just starting to wake up and realise the impact that the tourism industry has had in our world.
Has Venice been ruined by tourism? Yes. According to Forbes, Venice is now underpopulated and overtouristed as many of the locals have abandoned the romantic Italian island. With a city of less than 55,000 residents, receiving 30 million visitors a year is pushing out many of the locals who have abandoned their Italian home.
Thailand is a prime example of tourism getting out of control. I visited this Buddhist country in 2001 and again a year later and I was shocked at how much it had changed in one year. Tourism can be good for a country but how much tourism?
When you travel you become an ambassador for your country (whether you want to be or not). We have a responsibility to travel responsibly, respecting the culture and helping the local communities.
During my stint as a cocktail waitress on a cruise ship, we stopped at Bonavista Bay, a coastal fishing community in Newfoundland. Having never had anyone visit them before, we were greeted by the friendliest locals waving flags to welcome us. Cars honked and stopped to let us cross the road. Our reactions were ones of gratitude, as they embraced us with open arms.
Could we have changed the perception of the outside world for those residents? Yes. if we had chosen to snub them then maybe their interpretation of cruise ships could have been unfriendly and unwelcoming. Maybe they would have changed their minds about being so welcoming to the next one that docked?
So am I adding to the problem? Probably. Is inspiring others to travel solo creating more tourists? Yes.
So I am taking action to change things.
- I have created GatG Ambassadors, a community of solo female travellers who share the same ethics and want to inspire others to travel more consciously.
- I am in talks with Travel Social Good, a global community of changemakers, passionate about transforming the travel industry into a force for good.
- I volunteer every 2 weeks with Esperanza, handing out food to the homeless in Barcelona.
- And I am getting more exposure on how to become a conscious traveller. See my interview with Ricky from Digital Nomad Mastery below where we discuss how local communities can benefit more from your travels.
Tourism will always be there whether I write about it or not. The only think we can do is change the way we travel and make more people aware of how to do it consciously. Just remember that “your holidays, can be someone else’s everydays…”
If you don't get a chance to watch the video here is the summary of how to be a conscious traveller:
- Be respectful with the amount of noise you make. Residents still have to go to work and live their everyday lives. Keep it to a minimum if you are in a residential area.
- Look at tour companies which use local guides and help give something back to the community.
- Be polite to the locals and cover up a bit if you are walking around (keep beach wear to the beach).
- Buy local goods and help support the local people.
- Learn the basics of the language. Just saying please and thank you goes a long way.
What are your thoughts on tourism? Should we stop travelling?