For many years I, Joana, travelled the world for my job as a travel photographer. Taking photos for travel guides, magazines, news etc.
And I could see the world, the tourism sector, changing over the years.
The so called “hidden gems”, the “off-the-beaten-track” destinations became (too) famous. The early hours, usually for photographers a guarantee to be on your own and to be able to work in peace, became “the usual hours” for Instagram-selfieers.
Often there was no interest in the culture, in the history of the place. But to get as many photos as possible to post on Insta to show the world how well-travelled one is.
Not travellers I have met (although a few I did). But tourists.
Tourists without respect for the landscape, the locals, the nature, the traditions.
The problem was not that people travelled. But that they travelled in huge groups. Storming little quaint villages. Taking photos through curtains as if a private house is an open-air museum. Spoiling world heritage sites with graffiti, locks, garbage.
Sometimes I met groups in numbers like 5.000 and more. A caravan of coaches. Quickly built huge car parks destroying any atmosphere of a medieval town.
When I was in Greenland, locals told me that in summer a small fishing village was regularly swamped with 5.0000 cruise ship passenger. More than inhabitants. It felt like an invasion for the locals.
The nature suffered. Destroyed fields, meadows, lake shores, beaches.
Locals became unfriendly (understandably).
Travellers became annoyed.
But the dollar sign in the eyes of the people earning money with mass tourism was stronger than any environmental protection.
I always felt – something is not right.
It became worse and worse each year.
I felt there will be a big bang, something will happen because the nature has had enough.
The idea was born for “The Vegan Cypress”.
A project which won’t save the world. But at least it will be a tiny step in the right direction.
But even in my wildest imagination I wouldn’t have thought what then happened with all the consequences – the COVID-19 outbreak.
COVID-19 had also an easy game because of mass tourism.
Too many people in one place. In huge hotels. On crowded beaches. On overdimensioned cruise boats.
The world will change after COVID-19.
And hopefully we will learn a bit from it. To make the world a bit better.
Ecotourism is aiming at travellers interested in the place they are travelling to.
Small and individual places for travellers instead of resort hotels for tourists.
Built with environmentally friendly material. From local workers.
Food from local farms and small shops. Healthy and organic products. In our case all vegan.
Travellers who are willing to integrate themselves into the culture instead of swamping a place without consideration.
The idea for The Vegan Cypress was born before the COVID-19 outbreak.
Was born as almost an “outsider” idea. People were skeptical.
And all of a sudden it seems it becomes mainstream.
The only way we will be able to travel in the future is ecotourism.
Together WITH the nature, the locals, the history. Not against it. Not in masses but in individual groups like family or close friends. No resort hotels but supporting small local accommodations.
It doesn’t mean we have to have less fun. But maybe a different sort of fun.
Welcome to the ecotourism world.