Why sustainable travel is as much about humanity and diversity as it is about the planet

"Бесконечны лишь Вселенная и глупость человеческая, при этом относительно бесконечности первой из них у меня имеются сомнения." А. Эйнштейн ©
Время на прочтение: 6 минут(ы)

While none of us can predict the future, together as travellers we are the ones to shape it. As these world-changing times are showing us, we must look to find a new way of being, a new way of exploring. Being more sustainable includes striving for better diversity and inclusivity. People are the heart of the hospitality industry, with one in 10 around the globe earning a living from tourism. And making better travel choices needs to focus as much on improving the rights and conditions for all humans as it does on the planet.

‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’ Mark Twain said that in 1869. And still his words ring true. But it’s not simply about how travel opens minds and widens perspectives – now more than ever, it is about telling forward-thinking stories. How do we tell better tales about travel to improve the future for all?

  • Why sustainable travel is as much about humanity and diversity as it is about the planet

    Seek meaningful connections with locals, not just other globetrotters, to better understand our common humanity

    Says Trevor Phillips, broadcaster, writer, anti-racism campaigner and former chair of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission

    ‘I’m a great believer in the Chinese proverb, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness”. All disruption can be good – it provides a chance to change. Travel writing tells stories about what is possible, about a dream that we can live in. And we go on holiday to do that for a little while. So what is the story that we’re telling? What we could do better with the narrative around travel is revise its landscape when it comes to conveying that, yes, we’re going to a different physical place, but we’re not going to another world. The people there are hearing and seeing the same things as us.

    The most important thing the industry can do is to tilt the account that it shares about the rest of the earth by a few degrees. So people who live in our part of the world understand the common humanity they share with those who are not like us, don’t look like us and didn’t start life in the same places as us. It’s about telling a tale that says to the traveller, when you venture away from home, you are going somewhere with a different geography but it’s not a different planet where the people are not connected to us. We need to encourage individuals to be more open to the humans they’re connecting with when they’re abroad. Some stories people share with us will feel different, but a lot of them we should recognise. All disruption and dislocation, no matter how unpleasant the cause is, has to be regarded as an opportunity for change. Change doesn’t come about simply by people lamenting it.’

  • Why sustainable travel is as much about humanity and diversity as it is about the planet

    Look at history through a sharper lens and from every angle

    Says Shivani Ashoka, journalist and advocate for racial diversity in travel media

    ‘We all want to save the planet, but there’s little point talking about the environmental aspects of sustainability if you don’t tie in the societal factors that are fundamental to its success – by just banging the drum about how to extend the life of the earth, we ignore that there are entire communities who are still fighting for basic human rights and who don’t want that reality sustained. It is our job, in travel, to uplift them, support their livelihoods and reframe the wider understanding of what sustainability means. The end goal is that everyone is equal, but right now we have a duty to recognise race. As a woman of colour, I need to hear more voices that speak to my heritage, to see different skin tones represented at the highest points of my industry and to read narratives that I can identify with.

    When we write about travel, it’s so important to really think about how we tell stories and to be sensitive with the words we use. I remember reading a piece, as recently as last year, by a British writer who went to Charleston, South Carolina, and spoke to the decorative charms of plantations and “colonial elegance”. Do I need to explain why this is an inappropriate way to describe that landscape? Colonialism, for millions – including myself – speaks to persecution and oppression, so when I see it used in a positive light, I feel that a duty of care isn’t being taken. Writers and editors alike should research the brutality inflicted by the British Empire on its colonies; not only to be able to spot how its structures still shape our society today, but also to understand how it provided the framework for how black people in other countries, including the USA, continue to be enslaved.

    This includes social-media content. As readers and consumers, we’re all getting braver about calling out cultural appropriation when we see it. Getting “Happy Namaste Day” emails from brands for International Yoga Day triggered long-standing issues around the misuse of ‘namaste’ in Western yoga, which promotes the physicality of the practise over its core philosophical ideals. Namaste, as a sacred and respectful greeting, means “I bow to the divine in you” and, for those following the Hindu faith, it’s a daily reminder of their beliefs, values and how their religion guides them to treat others. Instead, we’re bombarded with crass spin-offs that take us further and further away from what we liked about yoga in the first place – and end up distorting how it works. The education – or re-education – element is crucial: we want to understand what we’re saying and why. Now that everyone has woken up to that, I hope we can effect change for the better.’

  • Why sustainable travel is as much about humanity and diversity as it is about the planet

    See the world through a broader range of perspectives

    Says Travis Levius, London-based travel writer and one of the founding members of the Black Travel Alliance

    ‘We need to highlight more travel influencers and content creators that aren’t tall, skinny blonde folk. There’s a blogger called Sassy Wyatt who is blind. Many people don’t think about the fact that blind people want to explore the world as much as those of us with sight, and we should have more sensitivity. I remember hearing Kia Abdullah of outdoor-travel website Atlas & Boots speak at a diversity event at Lonely Planet’s London office; she said, ‘We need better diversity because we need writers to write objective-sounding guides in a way that speaks to all readers.’ She talked about reading in a guidebook to China, ‘the locals might want to touch your pale skin’. And you think, ‘Wow – some people really don’t see the world outside of themselves.’

    At a travel-writing workshop I was hosting in Chiang Mai for people of colour last year, someone asked me, “What is your proudest work to date?” I said: “I haven’t done it yet.” I didn’t set out to be seen as a black travel writer – I write hotel reviews and guides just like any other one. I thought, once I’m established, maybe then I’ll try to change the narrative. Everyone’s speaking up now, but I remember reading an article about the Seychelles which referenced all of its cultural influences, except Africa. I knew the writer, but at the time I didn’t confront him. Now, I’m on several panels and talks this year addressing the industry’s diversity issue; I’ve penned candid “black in travel” op-eds in trade titles; I have created a humorous, quasi-viral skit on travel media’s homogeneity which resonated with many; and I made an Instagram directory spotlighting black journalists and authors to show that we too are aviation geeks, New World wine connoisseurs, daredevils and bon vivants qualified to write about our world. It seems I finally have the platform to effect change.’

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