AuthorAuthored by: Warren Tomlinson
As a Western graduate student and employee, there has been little time for a break or vacation. However, over the last few months, some of my MBA cohort and myself have been working with a sustainable eco-tourism company in Costa Rica. I have recently been given the privilege of going down to visit and experience their business while continuing our relationship as student-consultants. There is one message from this trip that I’d like to share. When travelling, practice cultural immersion as best you can to support the local small businesses.
The problem with tourism isn’t the tourists, it’s the way the money is spent. Travelling and staying in the resort for your whole trip gives little added economic value to the area while still draining their resources. In many places, the local economies have shifted to rely on tourist income. In some hot-spots in Costa Rica, the economy is 95% tourism-based.
So next time you are travelling and going out to dinner, consider spending your money outside of a resort or a large conglomerate, and instead try to support local business owners as best you can while still staying safe. It makes the trip more meaningful and gives you a look into the place you are visiting! Even if you don’t have the best service experience on your first try out, don’t worry. You’ve only just dipped your toes in the pool. Everyone is different, and to judge a whole local economy after a testing sample size of one isn’t fair. So give it a shot, support small businesses here in Bellingham and wherever your travels take you!