Of course, it is not only rural people who will suffer. Those who have jobs in the hospitality sector in towns and cities also face great difficulties. The waiters and housekeepers at the many hotels that have opened over the past decade to satisfy the tourist market will be unemployed, the women who create beautiful handicrafts, content to know that a steady stream of visitors will buy a weaving, basket or sculpture. What are they going to do now? A Madagascan friend recently told me that many women have been forced into prostitution in the absence of tourists.
Most countries in South America have seen a steady increase in tourism over the past decades. With their surprisingly wide range of attractions, from hiking in the Andes to bird watching in the rainforest, they have been able to involve local communities in all kinds of roles, from guides and porters to hotel workers. . Peru, in particular, had been particularly successful in developing sustainable tourism – until 2020, that is.
Marisol Mosquera, who runs the Peruvian company Aracari, knows firsthand the effect of the disappearance of international visitors. A hotel owner in the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru told her that with so few tourists, she could no longer employ her godson as a cook. She added: âHe now thinks his best opportunity is to return to La Pampa, an illegal gold mining town located in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, where he previously worked. It’s a sad sight. Environmental destruction, child prostitution and other human rights violations are rife, but my godson now sees this as his only option.
These highly polluting mines are the fallback job of indigenous rainforest peoples who until then worked in jungle lodges and other tourist facilities, learning about the value of their environment and wildlife in financial terms as well as their emotional ties with their homeland. How ironic if a willingness to abandon tourism in the name of climate change offers a boost to mining companies at the expense of conservation.
Of course, not all tourism is good, but if people are serious about saving the planet and the people who inhabit it, they should think hard before blindly blaming travel – and booking a flight to a country that needs it. .