Tourism

STUDY: The unsettling truths about how Aussies travel

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

A new study of Aussie travellers has revealed some unsettling truths about our intentions versus our actions when it comes to travelling abroad.

The study, which was commissioned by Kathmandu, tackles overtourism and the impacts of unsustainable travel by asking more than 1,000 Aussies revealing question about their travel habits.

The study revealed 92 per cent of travellers surveyed believed that they align to some degree with the qualities of a good traveller, but 24 per cent of travellers admit to not treating their destinations with as much respect as their own country and only 49 per cent researched local customs, traditions, and social sensitivities before travelling.

46 per cent of Aussie travellers surveyed said they are motivated to travel by ticking off bucket list destinations and 50 per cent were motivated by “social media inspo” which puts pressure on popular tourism destinations and results in overtourism.

“This pressure, now referred to as overtourism, is a hugely complex issue we must address if we’re to accommodate the 1.8bn global tourist arrivals by 2030.3 But the problem isn’t just volume, it’s concentration,” said Claudio Milano, international researcher, lecturer and consultant in tourism.

“Crowds are flocking in droves to some of the world’s most fragile historic destinations like Machu Picchu and Venice that weren’t built to withstand thousands of footsteps every day.

“While policymakers need to focus on ensuring they develop sustainable growth strategies for tourist destinations, we all have a part to play as travellers – in choosing where – and how we travel.”

The study found 36 per cent of travellers wouldn’t be confident to explain what over-tourism meant, while 30 per cent wouldn’t change their plans for it either. Milano said this indicates over-tourism is often oversimplified and not well understood by travellers, nor the multiple agents that make up the tourism system.

The research is accompanied by a new documentary series undertaken by investigative journalist and SBS’s The Feed host. In the series, Fran goes travelling overseas to find out first hand from locals what we can be doing better.

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The three-part documentary series explores tourism-driven social, cultural, environmental and economic factors affecting Nepal and Indonesia.

The third documentary unpacks the short-term rental crisis in our major cities, where Airbnb listings are ranked #1 in the world in ratio to liveable dwellings in Sydney and Melbourne, causing residents to feel like strangers in their own neighbourhood – plus the mass-traveller pressures being felt at one of the most ‘Instagram famous’ regional beaches; Hyams Beach.

“This herd-like mentality means people aren’t necessarily connecting with the cultures they are visiting in an authentic way either, and at times, creating tension with local people,” Fran said.

“So much so there’s talk of tourist bans in temples by the Indonesian government, who are fed up with the disrespect.”

We all know that tourism can certainly be helpful, with many places around the world relying on tourism dollars to survive.

But with less than 1 in 5 Aussie travellers actively thinking of ways to maximise their tourist dollars in the places they visit, we could be doing much better to ensure our money is going in the right pockets.

You can watch the documentary series here, and read the full report here.

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