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Travel & Holiday

Wish upon a world

What are the changes you like to see in the travelling arena? Try these on for size.
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - January 17, 2010
By: Sheila Lim
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Wish upon a world

I love Samantha Brown – she’s pretty, funny and really chummy. Avid travellers and fans of the Discovery Travel channel will reckon that this intrepid travel show host has got the best job in the world. Just for wearing her trademark sunshiny smile and spouting witty lines, she gets paid to traverse the world, stay at eclectic hotels, eat fabulously, do fun stuff and meet interesting people along the way.

Since having a job like hers will only remain a pipe dream for me, and this is the time of the year to make wishes, I can do no better than hope that certain situations in the travel world will improve in the years ahead, for the sake of real-life travellers like me.

Wish #1 – Expanding our shrinking world
My first wish would be to see a wider and more exciting range of travel options made available.

Seasoned travellers are always scouring for new destinations to explore, while the intrepid ones would prefer taking paths less travelled. The problem is that there aren’t many options for such travellers, and the alternative for them is to trawl the Internet to organise their own holidays.

However, that would be a rather tedious process for people who are hard-pressed to find the time or energy to do so. Travellers like me relish the experience of organising our own trips, yet abhor the drudgery of clicking on website after website to pick out suitable flights and accommodation, and trying to find and book activities to fit our travel schedule. Thus it would be great if there are travel organisers who can help me do my “homework”, and allow me to capitalise on their expertise and “connections”.

Some travel agents are already providing customised travel services, but I do wish that there would be more of them offering even more flexible options, to better meet the needs of growing niche markets (including single and senior travellers).

Wish #2 – Preserving Mother Earth’s health and beauty
The possibility of well-loved tourist destinations like Venice and the Maldives disappearing underwater is growing higher by the day. So too is the likelihood of us seeing magnificent glaciers melting away and great rivers drying up.

With the advent of global warming, these are some of the catastrophes that are likely to occur in the not-very-distant future. So my wish is that all the natural beauty, and the historical and cultural riches I have had the privilege to see during my travels will be preserved for future generations to enjoy, for as long as possible.

So, my next wish is that more travellers around the world opt for low-carbon vacations and contribute in any way they can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While we can only hope for quicker development of greener planes to take us to our faraway destinations, we could start with the little things, like cutting back on unnecessary purchases of trinkets attesting to the fact that “we’ve been there and done that”, and return home with the things that matter instead.

So avoid buying the umpteenth keychain or kitschy t-shirt (likely to be manufactured thousands of miles from your holiday destination) which will end up gathering dust in some dark corner. Instead, try to adopt less wasteful practices like bringing back items that are practical or consumable, or seek out locally produced goods – buying those will directly benefit the communities you visit or support local environmental organisations.

Wish #3 – Greater awareness of the need for “responsible tourism”
Whenever I look at my modest collection of seashells, I feel a sense of wonderment… and a tinge of guilt.

The wonderment comes from how exquisitely each is created. Like the fish in the ocean, the rocks in glacial rivers and everything else in nature, each shell bears its own unique beauty, and is a joy to collect. Yet, I often ponder if this passion of mine is contributing to the deterioration and destruction of the underwater worlds where they come from, as island natives will plunder these shells because tourists like me desire them. I often think of myself as a “greenie”, but am I truly one?

Now that government bodies around the world are seriously looking into ways to tackle the problems of global warming, ecotourism has become a popular catchphrase in tourism sales pitches. But how many of us truly understand the meaning of the word? To further confuse the issue, other similar terms like “sustainable tourism", "responsible tourism", "nature- based travel", "green travel" and "cultural tourism" are being bandied around as well.

The Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local people". Eco-tourism operates in ways that minimise negative impact on the environment, and do not reduce the availability of resources or inhibit future travellers from enjoying the same experience.

For instance, if the presence of large numbers of tourists disturbs an animal's mating patterns so that there are fewer of that species in the future, that kind of holiday activity is not environmentally sustainable or responsible. Kayaking on a free-flowing river is an example of sustainable tourism, while game-hunting is not.

Therefore, my third wish is that as holidaymakers, all of us try to do our part in being more eco-friendly, by doing background research on the places we intend to visit and stay in, and the holiday activities we will be participating in, and be more aware of their impact on the environment.

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