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How Global Tourism Changes The World

Here comes the big travel season. We look at how global tourism is changing the world.

In this Jan. 9, 2013 file photo the Italian-built cruise ship MS Azura sails past the EYE film institute as it leaves the port of Amsterdam, Netherlands. (AP)

In this Jan. 9, 2013 file photo the Italian-built cruise ship MS Azura sails past the EYE film institute as it leaves the port of Amsterdam, Netherlands. (AP)

In 1960, we humans, from all over, took 25 million trips abroad.  Last year?  2012?  We took, collectively, one billion foreign trips.  Trips abroad.  Trips around the world.  Global travel has grown and grown and grown into a massive business, on the scale of energy, finance, agriculture.

We snap up tickets for a trip abroad, a package tour, a great adventure – and so do a billion other people.  Our collective footprint is huge.  It is changing the world we light out to see.

This hour, On Point:  From Angkor Wat to the Taj Mahal, how global travel and tourism are reshaping the world.

- Tom Ashbrook


Elizabeth Becker, author of “Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: 100 Places to Visit Before They Die — “As Elizabeth Becker observes in ‘Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism,’ her meticulously reported and often disturbing exposé of the travel industry, the world has gotten smaller — but not often for the better. A former correspondent for The New York Times, Becker crisscrossed the globe, from the beaches of Sri Lanka to the game reserves of sub-Saharan Africa, from the vineyards of France to America’s national parks, measuring the impact of the tourist trade.”

National Geographic: New Book Will Open Your Eyes About Travel – “Author Elizabeth Becker has found a giant gap in journalistic coverage and stepped squarely into the middle of it. Even though it’s under our noses, beneath our feet, even in our happier dreams, rarely has the investigative story she recounts in her new book previously received the coverage it deserves: The rampant growth of travel and tourism.”

Excerpt: ‘Overbooked’ by Elizabeth Becker

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  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    It would seem that international tourism is creating a virtual Pangaea. Are we becoming “over connected” ? Could a continuation of this phenomena create a lack of biodiversity and an eventual collapse of all of the firewalls that nature has created through natural geographic separation? Invasive species, diseases that spread in hours, gene pools that are moving to “oneness” are fuels for species extinction. I read some time ago that at the current rate of human interbreeding that every human on the Earth will posses the active gene for EVERY disease that now plagues mankind, within 40,000 years * ! Of course, we do not have to possess every gene to die from any particular disease. We had better hope that geneticist will have produced methods to overcome these problems before that perfect storm arrives !

    * I am pulling this number from memory. I am probably incorrect as to the actual amount of years it will take to guarantee our demise. If you know the correct number , please share it with me. Give a reference please.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gary.kay.7777 Gary Kay

      Makes sense. The only problem is that the “politically correct” will criticize you for being prejudiced.

      Personally, I think that the human race will be extinct long before then. As a long-time history buff, my take on the human race is that it has definite suicidal tendencies. All it would take is nuclear weapons. Not to mention the chemical and biological weapons available. Not a prescription for the long-term survival of humanity.

      • Wm_James_from_Missouri

        Interesting article about inbreeding throughout the world and its history. The effects of mixing gene pools and traits are a complex subject, of which I do not know enough about.
        This is not exactly the subject I was referring to but it is similar, in that, it talks about recessive genes and their effects.


  • nj_v2

    I’m always interested in broader perspective and context.

    I’m guessing that the “foreign trips” graph will eventually—and maybe soon—look like any typical bell curve once the effects of peak oil kick in.

    As with any infrastructure and activity of “developed” countries, most travel is made possible by relatively cheap, liquid, carbon fuel. That party is about to end. What then for travel?

  • ToyYoda

    I use to work for a hedge fund and they would make me travel and stay at cities around the world from 1 month to 1 year.  I stayed at fancy hotels and my expenses were paid for.  I even had a daily allowance.  It was a  great way to see the (rich class) world. Because my stays were so long, I didn’t feel like I was traveling, but moving to a new city.

    My best experience was to hang out in a cafe, chat with the locals and figure out what the locals do and where they eat as opposed to what the tourists do. I even got invited to parties.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BGHooke Bruce Hooke

    I usually like getting away from people when I go on vacation and while that takes some work now, it does not really have to cost that much. I went canoeing last September up in Canada and in almost a week of paddling we saw maybe a dozen other people. Hiking in the desert in the southwest US I’ve been similarly far from the crowds. But, this all requires the skill and willingness to put on the hiking boots or grab a paddle and start walking or paddling! And, even in wilderness areas there are now often reservation systems to keep the area from getting overused.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jake.izenberg Jake Izenberg

    Between undergraduate and medical school I lived in Malaysia for a year. I traveled extensively in the region and I found the most interesting, rich, (and I might add, troubling) experience was a trip I took to Burma (Myanmar). Why? Because there were so few other tourists. In spite of the government control and apparent spying going on, not to mention war, turmoil, and in some cases genocide ongoing, I felt that the people there were genuinely enthusiastic about my visit and as a result were some of the warmest people.

    I think traveling to these sorts of places remains among the last frontiers – the world’s difficult countries are challenging and rewarding destinations. Of course, they must be entered into with all due caution and consideration for the political climate and the situation faced by the people there. In Burma, I did my best to avoid spending money at government-run businesses (with the help of my Lonely Planet).

  • http://twitter.com/paulzink Paul Zink

    Tourists can be inadvertent ambassadors; I recall being in Aswan, Egypt in 1985 when the Vienna airport attack occurred (my plane had refueled there only 2 weeks before). Hearing the news from thousands of miles on “the other side of the looking glass” was interesting and a bit unsettling, as I was pressed by the local Egyptians for an American’s reaction. 

  • Diannahahn

    I work for Global Routes, an organization that provides cultural immersion and service projects for high school and gap year youth. These programs are unique opportunities for students as we bring youth at an impressionable age to live in communities abroad. We find these experiences truly open students’ eyes to responsible tourism. One of the most important treasures of traveling is making meaningful connections with people cross-culturally.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Beatrice-Blake/100000330476178 Beatrice Blake

    I’m the author of the guidebook The New Key to Costa Rica, now in its 19th edition. When the book became a best seller in 1989, we became the first guidebook to rate hotels on their committment to conservation, fostering the the local economy and preserving local culture. The fact that we actually did this kind of rating system for 10 years convinced the Costa Rican Tourism Board to develop its own rating system, the Certification of Sustainable Tourism. Currently, i help travelers plan trips that get off the beaten path and visit community owned lodges that introduce visitors to the culture and supplement local farming incomes. This is a true model for sustainable tourism. Keytocostarica.com.

  • Ray in VT

    “And progress is a debt we all must pay

    Its convenience we all cherish, its pollution we disdain.”

  • SuziVt

    What about the carbon footprint? Living in a rural community, I’m concerned about any unnecessary or frivolous road trip I may be taking. We’re all interested in cleaning up the environment on earth day, making little efforts to make “green” choices in our lives. We’re bombarded with information for living more responsibly, buying locally, reducing our consumption, recycling, and many many other rules to stop the destruction of the planet. All of these are very good steps to take, but I see such a contradiction when it comes to traveling. Many of the same people that want to take a more responsible role in their lives to avoid adding to global climate change, are completely on board to traveling and traveling often. I’ve heard so many guests and hosts on WNPR gushing about traveling and it seems as though the more you can travel, the more envious your lifestyle. I can remember when the Today Show had a contest for viewers to send in a list of the ways that they try to live a “green” lifestyle and the winner would win a trip to Costa Rica. I couldn’t believe it. I felt that, with all of the efforts my husband and I make, I had a chance of winning. Had I bothered to enter, I would have added, and if I win the trip, I will forgo it. Even though it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, I would rather be one less person taking up plane seats, or traipsing through the tropical jungle. I”m not saying no one should travel. I just wonder if we should take our trips seriously, and not hop on a plane, train, car, or boat in a whim. Thought should be given to the footprint we are leaving.             

    • nj_v2

      Greeenhouse-gas-wise, flying is worse than single-occupant driving…


      The simple answer is that driving in a relatively fuel-efficient car (25-30 miles per gallon) usually generates fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than flying. In assessing the global warming impact of a trip from Philadelphia to Boston (about 300 miles), the environmental news website Grist.orgcalculates that driving would generate about 104 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2)—a leading greenhouse gas—per typical medium-sized car, regardless of the number of passengers, while flying on a commercial jet would produce some 184 kilograms of CO2 per passenger.

      • SuziVt

        Even so, we can all do more to take care of this planet. We can’t compare what damage we do to those that do worse. Just as those offsets are, in my view, such a hypocritical choice. Let’s just cut back, in every way that we can, without paying off someone else to cancel out the damage we are responsible for.   

  • MarkVII88

    I was in Brisbane Australia on a college semester abroad when 9/11 occurred.  Our group arrived in Brisbane in late August and we departed in mid-November.  The Australians were incredibly supportive and empathetic with our group of American college students and went out of their way to make their support known.  It was incredibly interesting to note and live through the extremes of travel security changes pre-9/11 and post-9/11 on that same trip.

  • J__o__h__n

    The regulation of the oil industry should not be the model for anything.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    What your guest has said about cruise ships and other travel is SO TRUE.

    Cruise ships from southern California to Mexico now stop at Catalina Island.  It has a VERY small harbor and a VERY small town with not much more than a few T shirt shops and ice cream places. Talk about over running the locals.

    We went to Akumel south of Cancun on our honeymoon over 20 years ago. On the plane back we sat near some people talking about their great vacation – the only thing they saw was the road between the airport and their hotel, they never left the resort. Might as well stay home, crank up the heat and the sun lamp.

    If I want to ski, I think I’ll stick to places with snow rather than fly to the desert that is Dubai.

    A couple of decades ago, I was reading Cruising World. There was a story written by a couple that were sailing around the world. They spent a month on a south seas island. The cruise ships would come in every Tues and Thurs. The locals greeted them in tradition clothing and sold them “hand crafts”. When the cruise ships departed, changed into their logo Tshirts, hats, sneakers etc, cranked up the boom boxes and went back to their real lives.  I have no idea where the locals bought the “hand crafts” to sell the tourists looking for a “real local” experience.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Exactly. I’m a sailor and we read the cruise schedules so we won’t be visiting a small island at the same time as a cruise ship….if possible. Even with no harbor big enough to take them they stand off and invade with their evil looking shuttlecraft, unloading hundreds of clueless drunks onto  islands that have maybe 2 toilets. Yuck. Cane Garden bay on Tortola is pretty much ruined.


      • andrea5

        Cruise ships are ruining Venice, Italy as well. These massive things (taller than most of the buildings they pass) go right into the lagoon and slop water into the city as they go. Why they don’t park them outside the city and ferry people in from there in smaller craft, I do not know.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Genocide Tourism.
    Now there’s a phrase I’ve never heard before.
    Interesting discussion.

  • kaltighanna

    In my opinion, the problem is not exactly that everybody is traveling at once. The problem is that people want to be in a different location but stay in places that look and feel just like their home country, eat food that is familiar and drink like there’s no tomorrow.

    I live in a beautiful beach town in Southern Brazil. I have no problem with visitors who come to stay here and rent a local room, eat the local food and live like us for a week or two. My problem is with people who think they can see the sights, swim in the ocean and walk around our trails but they want to stay in air-conditioned luxury hotels, drive around in SUVs and leave a trail of beer cans in the sandy beaches. Those people want to go out and drink themselves stupid, party all night, drive around like we have no traffic laws and they don’t care how we local residents feel about it. As far as I’m concerned, those people could stay home.

    I love to travel, but I think the beauty of traveling is that you can immerse yourself in a different culture, eat the local food and live like the locals do for a little while. Otherwise, what is the point?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=725028319 Lynn Francois

    A great way to travel with out leaving your Lazy Boy is to host an international HS student for a school year.  You learn the culture/ideas from a “local”, and if you want to travel there, you always have a guest room and a wonderful tour guide.  I just met up with my first German daughter in the Dominican Republic when it turned out we had booked trips on the same dates and were able to catch up.  I’ve gone through Youth for Understanding, but there are other groups also that sponsor kids. It is an experience of a lifetime for them – but for you too as you’ll always have an additional member to your family.
    I was disappointed in the Dominican Republic trip in that it looks like the locals have been pushed aside for big hotel chains to take over the best beaches and siphon the money into their own coffers.  That was a bit sad.

  • Trond33

    The best way to learn about the world is still to skip the big hotels, the resorts and the cruise ships.  Go to smaller towns and stay at a bed & breakfast, local hotel or someone’s house.  Its a vacation you will remember for the rest of your life, unlike those exhausting trips to see as many sights as possible.  

    When I lived in DC, I often spent Sunday afternoons at the National Gallery of Art.  I would sit down and study a painting for an hour – and also watch all the tourist file by.  They would maybe stop to snap a photo, but not really slowing down.  Oblivious to what was in front of them. 

  • sam christy

    Before you decide you need to meet someone who lives 5000 miles away get to know your neighbors, discover your city and neighborhoods. Instead of working 50 weeks so that you can get away from your community for 2, spend 52 discovering and building a community that you can cherish and value, and don’t feel the need to get away from. 

    And on a related note, a round trip from Florida to London consumes as much energy as the average US household consumes in electricity in a year. Think about that before you book your next flight.

  • Jacob Arnon

    Radio on point practices censorship, but it hypocritically preaches freedom of speech. Disgusting.

    You can delete my comment but you can’t delete the truth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brennan-Moriarty/100000655771831 Brennan Moriarty

    step right up, see the tortured man and the helplessly confused damsel in a dress. 
    The difference between ideal god loved PILGRIMS [ask the quiet man ;] and A NET=error of terrible tour-ism is apP-refraction of the bitter and sweet conspiracies , tourists AND terrorists routinely travel to New York City with it’s Daily…rants; or Hollywood’$ great dictation must-chaste faced with the past [Charlie Chaplin psychiatry].
    From Tintin to Indiana Jones and to… California or new world realities{shows} with “EGO-tourism” -say  Peru’s Macho pee poo [have a Coke and a sweet-conspicuous S-miles,,,]
    the quest for happiness is a reaction to found sadness; and like a beautiful woman’s intimate tears of joy, you start to think, well maybe this is good, we’ve cracked the code, or we’ve found a deeper focus without the trivial distractions of our own needy cultures omnipresent geography [we can only recoMend fantasy aliens 3rd rate Amens -like ourselves-, because true complete experience [normative youth post-x neo-repatriation] is too truthy and we only want gilded profits not ruthful  surplus PH e.t.’s, in-fact’o if you’re on vacation and you’re thinking? shame on you! this could cause the earth to cave in and your mind to go down the tubes WHERE your heart has the blue$ but hey,,, now you know, we’ll keep it as our little secret, and be kind to the exponential refugees “we are now” going to sent to you_ because they’ll be wiping your…but don’t dwell on the negative, you could IDENTIFY YOUR OWN PROBLEMS, but instead You identified ours, why you could make movies,and travel so far from the truth that nobody… will know who you really, actually and incidentally are.
    *note “P[-waves]” are Penetrating and “S[-waces]” are Surface, in metaphysical poly-tectonic navigation or sub-political [hyper?] social reactions to the lost…tourist who is symbolic of the U.S. 3rd amendment secret-soldier …getting to deep into this is mind warping soul-sucking creep-o tourism ;;;inside the minds of Abu Ghraib  LIES a secondary cop-out where  nations when’t …insane ;)  because perfection didn’t want to pay [for true love] and THERE the norms become enslaved -on the TV where you pray… eh?
    Geo-NET-error? select with proof the carer; and inspect the truth  -subconsciously as- the barer, as innocent the prayer, on point with dePth his&her tour deflects when love can stope at fair. Know NORMS subconscious glare.

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