- Emily Goldfischer
The Last Tourist: a new film explores the cost of overtourism and how we build back better
Billing itself as "a wake-up call,” the premise of The Last Tourist is that travel is at a tipping point. Tourists are unintentionally destroying the very things they have come to see, with overtourism impacting the environment, wildlife, and vulnerable communities around the globe. The team traveled to 16 countries and filmed over 400 hours of footage to create the powerful 90-minute film that includes interviews with luminaries like Jane Goodall and profiles enterprises like Sakha, a cab company run by women for women in India. The Last Tourist reveals the real conditions and consequences of one of the largest industries worldwide through the forgotten voices of those working in its shadow. The film also offers ideas on how, post-pandemic, the industry can build back better.
We caught up with Kim Greiner, G Adventures US Communications Manager to learn more about the mission and the movie, which is out now in the US on Apple TV and comes to the UK later this year.
What inspired executive producer, Bruce Poon Tip, community tourism pioneer and founder of adventure operator, G Adventures, to work with writer and director Tyson Sadler on the film? How long has it been in the works?
Bruce had the idea for the film years ago. He wanted to create something that would pull back the curtain on aspects of the tourism industry that are harmful to the environment, host communities, wildlife, and other vulnerable populations–and most importantly to offer actionable steps to encourage change. Tyson shared his vision for the documentary, and over 2 and 1/2 years ago the crew began filming. The film was scheduled to come out just as the pandemic hit, and pretty soon it was obvious that the forced pause in travel that it created would need to be addressed in the film. Interestingly, the pause in travel has given us the opportunity to rethink travel, which is ultimately what the film is all about.
What is the key message you hope people will get out of the film?
The film tackles very big issues and definitely can be tough to watch at times. But ultimately, we hope that people walk away feeling like there is a huge opportunity for positive change and that we, the travelers, are where the change starts. What travelers demand is what they get. For example, when we start demanding that our tourism dollars stay in the communities where we visit, we begin to shift habits, and change will start to happen.
When we start demanding that our tourism dollars stay in the communities where we visit, we begin to shift habits, and change will start to happen.
The movie interviewed some notable women and how they are leading in sustainable travel practices, can you tell us a bit about the female factor?
One of my favorite segments in the film is the one about Sakha, the Indian cab company run for women, by women. They work with the Azad Foundation to train and empower local women (many of whom are in difficult domestic situations) to become drivers, creating a sustainable career for them and on a greater level, promoting women's empowerment and gender equality.
The film also follows a group of women in Peru who are determined to relearn traditional weaving and textile arts and create a collective to sell their goods to tourists who pass through. The women end up creating a network of homestays for tourists as well, and are able to improve their families' lives with the income brought in.
Clearly, as the industry rebuilds, there is an opportunity for the tourism industry to do things differently, what is the first step?
Ask questions! As a hotel operator or even as a traveler, you have so much power. The first step is to do your research and ask about where your dollars are ending up and are your environmental standards high. Are you working with local partners as a hotelier? Have you committed to sustainable practices? Are your policies transparent?
As a traveler, are the communities that you are visiting benefitting from you being there? Are the people you encounter being treated fairly? What are the environmental policies of the hotel you're staying at? The answers shouldn't be hard to find, and if they are, that might just be a red flag. As hotel operators, you should also be aware that consumers are looking for transparency and demanding accountability.