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The impact of tourism on local communities

Posted by Flux on 

2 May 2023

What’s trending?
In many places across the globe, local communities are taking a stand against rising tourist numbers, whether they’re leisure travellers or digital nomads. The pandemic precipitated a surge in nomadic work, one that is not showing signs of declining. These travellers embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work simultaneously, for anything from six months to two years.  As of June 2022 and according to a Migration Policy Institute report, more than 25 countries have launched digital nomad visas. These visas are a way of attracting new ideas and talent as well as injecting foreign capital into the local economies. Concurrently, leisure-based tourism has also been on the rise since the end of the pandemic. International tourism bounced back to 60% of pre-pandemic levels in January-July 2022, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. 

Why is it important?
While tourism, whether for work or play, has advantages for the country being visited, there are also disadvantages. Mexico City has become a hotspot for nomadic workers and tourists due to its buzzing nightlife, delicious food and relaxed visa rules. The locals, however, are unhappy with visitors pushing up rents and eroding the city’s culture as local businesses try to cater to the tastes of foreign tourists. Locals are being evicted from their homes and business premises to accommodate new apartment blocks, coffee shops and yoga studios. A Japanese island, Iriomote, has introduced a cap on visitor numbers to combat overtourism.  Hawaii, Amsterdam, Italy and Bali are also locales that are fed up with tourists who are showing little respect for local life. “Those who are too quick to celebrate the benefits of remote working should be more sensitive to the nuanced impacts of WFH on minorities and gentrification,” said Antonio M Bento, Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California.

What can businesses do about it?
Companies who employ digital nomads need to have a digital nomad policy in place. These  workers, who are representative of their employers, could incur reputational damage and possibly litigation for the company if they are disrespectful of local communities. They should be encouraged to live lightly and blend in, learn the local language and culture instead of isolating themselves with other expats. The risk of targeted activism as local populations unite and organise to resist the practice is rising. Put the right solutions in place to protect yourselves, employees and the communities affected. In turn, travel companies should make leisure tourists aware of local practices and sensitivities, the do’s and don’ts. However it must be conceded that that old saying holds true: you can lead a horse to water…

By Faeeza Khan

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