The Last Tourist premiere tackled overtourism, looked to the future of travel

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The red carpet was rolled out last night for the who’s who of the travel industry to attend the Aussie premiere of the award-winning documentary The Last Tourist.

Taking place at The Dendy’s Theatre in Newtown, Sydney, the evening was brought together by G Adventures and The Misfits Media* to present the important messages and ideas of overtourism and examine how the industry can (and has to) move on to a new model of travel.

Pre-film drinks and hors d’oeuvre in the theatre’s lobby let travel industry movers and shakers catch up with representatives from G Adventures and their industry counterparts before the film took place. Amongst the attendees were the film’s executive producer and founder of G Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip, who fielded a Q&A following the eye-opening film.

Amassing more than 400 hours of footage during filming, The Last Tourist empowers audiences with the knowledge and inspiration to make a positive impact – and to fundamentally change the way they travel – by examining the history of modern tourism and revealing its consequences.

Filmed across 16 countries and led by Poon Tip, Dr. Jane Goodall (UN Messenger of Peace) and Gary Knell (National Geographic), the documentary explores alarming issues such as animals suffering for entertainment, orphaned children exploited for profit, the cruise industry’s impact on tourist spots and developing economies strained under the weight of foreign-owned hotel chains.

Following the premiere, Poon Tip discussed his role in the production of the film, where the ideas and messaging came from, the impact COVID had and where the industry has to go from here.

The film began planning back in 2014, with Poon Tip highlighting his struggle to give up artistic freedom – a decision he questioned along the way but was grateful for once he saw the finished product. The final product left viewers with many messages, but ultimately saw them looking for the way to a more sustainable version of travel.

The Last Tourist demonstrates what a dire state the industry was in pre-pandemic, and recommends tangible ways travellers can use their personal power to have a positive impact as the world reopens to international travel and Australians start travelling abroad in significant numbers again,” Poon Tip said.

When asked during his Q&A, Poon Tip was quite straightforward about areas of the industry that needed improving.

He told the audience that he doesn’t think all-inclusive is a sustainable model for travel. This was particularly highlighted in the film’s depiction of the cruise industry where the luxury amenities and dining and entertainment options of a cruise became more important than the destinations, Poon Tip argued.

The G Adventures founder also encouraged attendees to be considerate of unconscious consumerism, particularly as travellers often forgo their usual standards of environmental concern or consider the treatment of animals they pay to see once they go on holiday.

An important message of The Last Tourist was on ‘voluntouring,’ an aspect of the travel industry that, while well-intentioned by most, has adverse effects upon communities and the people it aims to help in developing nations. The film reflected on the inauthenticity of the practice, highlighting the vast disparency between the livelihoods of those paying to volunteer, between the people they are helping. 

Poon Tip recalled hearing of the same Latin American church being painted six time in the same year because different groups of volunteers wanted to come and participate.

“You cannot commercialise volunteering,” Poon Tip said, highlighting that people without qualifications should not have such easy access to children without qualifications. He also said that he’d like it if G Adventures could do this in some sort of way but argued that volunteering cannot ethically exist as a business venture.

So where do these messages leave the travel industry?

“The opportunity to (be different) is massive right now,” Poon Tip said.

Poon Tip wants travellers to venture beyond the hot spots, even if the spot they plan on visiting isn’t having a bad effect socially, culturally or environmentally.

“I ask that everyone who travels watches this important film and spreads the word about a better way to travel,” he said.

The Last Tourist is available to stream via Prime Video, Apple iTunes, Google Play and Microsoft from 21 March 2023. It is also currently playing on Delta Airlines and Emirates Airlines.

*The Misfits Media is the parent company of Travel Weekly

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