Tourism and sustainability don’t always go hand in hand. While tourism can be great for the local economy it isn’t always the most beneficial for the surrounding environment. For example, pumpkin season in Half Moon Bay! Every year people from all over the Bay Area and greater NorCal flock to the small coastal town for the weekend-long Pumpkin Festival (cancelled this year due to COVID-19) and other fall activities!
If you ask a HMB local they’ll probably seem a bit reluctant when it comes to the weekend traffic that jams up Highways 1 and 92. In fact I’ve seen quite a bit of chatter on social media where people are (not so nicely) discouraging others from visiting Half Moon Bay due to overcrowding and I think it’s an important conversation to have! On one hand an ethical tourist should aim to keep the locals in mind and respect their hometown’s privacy, while on the other hand if everyone chose to leave the locals alone these pumpkin farmers in Half Moon Bay would take a major loss on their annual crops!
Supporting small businesses and farms is extremely important for sustaining the local economy, especially this year. Many of these pumpkin fields rely on their Autumnal harvest for a huge percentage of their annual income and without this seasonal tourism for all things pumpkin it could put many of their businesses in jeopardy. Equally essential is respecting the natives of wherever you are visiting, afterall if it weren’t for them you wouldn’t have a destination to visit!
So there’s our challenge, the balance scale of ethical tourism. How can you support the locals without disturbing them too? Depending on your mindset or perspective there may be no one true solution, but there are definitely improvements we can make! I always go by the mindset of “treat others the way you wish to be treated”, something I learned long ago and has done me well.
Some simple manners can go a long way when it comes to tourism, and that goes further than your local pumpkin patch! Quite often traveling takes you out of your cultural norms and into someone else’s neighborhood. Simple gestures like smiling through language barrier fumbles or letting locals pass in line while you try to figure out the public transport may seem minuscule but reflect your admiration for those who occupy the space you’re visiting.
Sustainable tourism doesn’t have to be hard, sometimes it just takes a change in perspective, putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes, to see the best way to support sustainable tourism in both an economical and environmental sense. Like I said before I don’t know if there is a universal solution for this ethical tourism dilemma, but it definitely deserves some thought and consideration. How would you like your hope to be tromped on or trashed?
And with that said go forth and collect your pumpkins! Support your local farmers! And radiate respect to locals of all places!