Recently Nazareth (no, not the Jesus one), a small town in the Amazon region of Colombia announced that tourists are no longer allowed to visit: the tens of thousands that visit each year are providing little for the economy and their presence is having detrimental effects on both local scenery and the livelihood of people.
And there is no doubt that the people have a reason for concern: the town, with a population of 800, are seeing much of the income generated by the tourism industry being pocketed by travel agencies from larger towns and cities who are providing little more than a bus service for the tourists. In addition local ways of life are being eradicated as the next generations of the village gather an increasing appetite for western fashion and music.
The situation is a microcosm for tensions and angst being seen all over the globe, but it is receiving more media attention based on the persistence of residents to eradicate this problem. And with their inevitable success it is no doubt that the residents of other popular tourist destinations will soon follow suit.
Whilst it is easy to envision a solution to this problem it is almost impossible to put into practice – unfortunately we cannot easily control the movements or mentalities of every individual visitor. But there are certain things to bear in mind when visiting a poverty-stricken destination: a £1 tip goes a surprisingly long way, and good manners cost nothing.
Adhering to such standards might not alter the long-term outcome, but it will certainly make you seem a lot less obnoxious, and you will be doing other people a service. With this in mind, the only thing left to do is grab your bag and go travelling: as your investment banking career beckons and locals become increasingly agitated, this would be better sooner rather than later – get out and see it all while you still can.