World Tourism Day

Today is World Tourism Day and to celebrate the occasion I invited some Portuguese travel bloggers to give their perspective on sustainable tourism and the destinations that they think will be in vogue next year.

From Lisbon to Myanmar, or Romania, the list of countries to visit next year is long. And all these travelers agree on one thing: if we want to practice sustainable tourism we have to start by respecting the places we visit and its inhabitants. I couldn’t agree more.

 

Diana Guerra, Contramapa

– How would you describe your way of doing tourism?

I like to travel independently, that is, I like to book my own flights, my hotels and what I’m going to do on the road. I’m also a very organized traveler. Before leaving for any new adventure, I research my destinies, what there is to see, its history. I’m a bit of a nerd … on the last two trips, I even bought history books to read before. In the case of Japan, for me, it was very important because it was unknown to me and with a very different culture.

– Which destinations do you think will be featured next year? Why?

For Portugal, the Azores islands and Gerês are undoubtedly growing. I think there are lesser-known areas of Portugal, more inland, which are also growing, such as the area of Trás-os-Montes and Douro.

Outside, I think Peru and Bolivia are increasingly prominent, and in Asia, Myanmar. These are my “bets”.

– What destination would you recommend to a friend? Why?

Well, that depends on the friend!! But I will try. The trip that marked me the most today was the road trip I made in the United States. I started off on the east coast with Boston and New York and headed to California, past incredible locations. The United States is that country that has dozens of countries in there, the diversity is immense, from the cities, the interior, the national parks to the Californian coast. I highly recommend it! And then, as American culture is so prevalent, we are always finding references.

My favorite part of this trip was the national parks: Grand Canyon, Zyon, Monument Valley, Death Valley and Yosemite. They’re all breathtaking!

– 2017 was considered the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. How do you see that tourists can contribute to more sustainable tourism?

In many ways. Firstly, when we book a trip, we should try to use local means, staying in accommodations that are not part of the big hotel chains and going to local restaurants. It’s also important not to encourage “chewing gum” souvenirs. There are so many souvenirs of poor quality that are useless. The tourists buy it, take it home and a month later they are throwing it in the trash. Better buy a good local product than five of those sly souvenirs. Afterwards, and as final advice, it’s to respect the destination wherever one goes. This includes not leaving trash scattered, having respect for local norms and realizing a little the country where we go, not talking loudly in residential areas … because we are on vacation, but residents aren’t, right?

Follow other trips from Diana through Facebook and Instagram.

 

Marta Chan, Viver a Viajar

– How would you describe your way of doing tourism?

I’m the eternal backpacker 🙂 I like to travel on a limited budget but that allows me to do everything I like and enjoy the trip to the fullest. The most important thing for me is to immerse myself in the culture and when we have a short budget we end up interacting more with the local people, whether through the hitchhiking, attending the same cafes and restaurants because they are cheap or sleeping in their house through Couch Surfing.

– Which destinations do you think will be featured next year? Why?

Lisbon seems to remain at the top of the list, increasingly visited and recommended in every corner of the World. Although a more expensive destination, Iceland has been getting more famous for its breathtaking landscapes and Bali is now one of many favorite destinations for quality – price.

– What destination would you recommend to a friend? Why?

Internationally I recommend Myanmar or Burma because it’s a country that has reopened to tourism for only six years and is therefore in its purest state, little or nothing modified by tourism. The people are friendly; they help you immensely and are interested in our culture. The country is wonderful!

– 2017 was considered the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. How do you see that tourists can contribute to more sustainable tourism?

Instead of giving money to random people on the street you could research which schools or associations need money to carry out their community projects. As for food rather than eating at the hotel or in tourist restaurants, try a more local restaurant and go to the markets to shop for fruits and vegetables and even souvenirs. This way the money goes to those who really need it.

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Catarina Gralha, Mundo Indefinido

– How would you describe your way of doing tourism?

Above all, I believe that in order to truly understand a place, it’s extremely important to know its history, culture, and traditions. So I work on research before, during and after each of my trips so that I can better understand where I’ve been. I travel alone, backpack on my back (I never owned a suitcase with wheels, but that’s just a mistake of mine), and I usually stay in cheap hostels. However, I don’t believe there is a “right” way to do tourism or travel. For example, I have a special taste for museums (except for painting, I confess), but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to visit them. We all have different tastes and, for me, the way of traveling is very personal. I think, however, that it’s extremely important to have an overview of where we are going and the history of that country or region. Out of respect for the people who live or lived there.

– Which destinations do you think will be presented next year? Why?

Canada and Romania. Canada had a special importance this year because of its 150th birthday, but I think next year we will still hear a lot about that country. I lived there for 6 months, and it was a wonderful experience. It’s a country with a rich natural landscape and people are delightful, very friendly and helpful, always with a smile on their face. As for Romania, I have had the great pleasure of meeting it this year, and it’s a beautiful country. It entered the European Union in 2007 and, perhaps because of this, we are seeing a considerable improvement in its infrastructure, particularly at the level of the roads – that are in good condition (with some recent intervention) or in works to be improved. And who can resist a visit to the country of Vlad Tepes, the prince who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula?

– Which destination would you recommend to a friend? Why?

Can I choose two? Russia and Mongolia. I had a huge passion for Russia since I went there in 2013. I promised myself I would go back, and I did. In 2016 I returned to my beloved Russia, with the Trans-Siberian as an excuse. Do I want to go back for the third time? No doubt! If it was closer and the visa wasn’t so bureaucratic, I think it would happen every year. When I speak of Russia, obviously I mean Saint Petersburg and Moscow, but this country can’t be reduced to two cities. The truth is that my best experiences in Russia were aboard trains — where everyone tried to communicate with me, even if I didn’t speak Russian and they didn’t speak English — and in smaller cities like Volgograd, Irkutsk, and Ulan-Ude. Mongolia is a country that hasn’t yet been spoiled by mass tourism, which still has a soul of its own, and people stare at us on the street and want to take pictures of us with pure curiosity. There, we are exotic, the different. It’s a country with an incredible natural landscape, where much of the city is nomadic, and where crossing the fields on horseback is a day-to-day activity. It’s this country where nature is in its purest state, and whose capital, Ulaanbaatar, is a mixture of Soviet-era buildings, alongside Buddhist temples, alongside modern glass buildings, alongside traditional gers (tents). You can’t explain, you have to go there. Now.

– 2017 was considered the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. How do you see that tourists can contribute to more sustainable tourism?

It’s curious that you ask this question because I’ve been thinking about it for some time. The United Nations speaks of three categories of sustainability: economic, social and environmental. Let’s start with the last one. It’s very difficult to make long-distance travel without having an environmental impact, isn’t it? We all know that traveling by plane isn’t the most environmentally friendly way of getting around, but sometimes there is no great alternative, given the time we have and the distance we have to travel. However, when we get to our destination, there are choices we can make: walking on public transport and walking instead of taking a taxi, for example. Economically and socially, I believe that tourists have a lot of power. It’s more than evident that tourism moves money, and we can all (and should) make choices that help the local population. A very clear example of this is the purchase of souvenirs (I can’t resist magnets for the fridge, it’s a problem…). When I was in Canada I was a bit annoyed because almost everything in the gift shops was made in China or Indonesia. If we are in a particular country, it makes sense to buy things produced in that country. It’s an incentive to local commerce, helping to boost the region’s economy and create jobs. Apart from that, as there is no need to transport goods from one place to another, the environment is also spared. From that moment, I decided to start buying only locally, with small artisans.

As a little final note, I just wanted to say that I truly believe that a world with more (conscious) travelers would be a better world. It’s very simple if you think about it… Traveling makes us know other cultures, understand them, respect them. Take us from our little box, from our beloved comfort zone, and make us more flexible and tolerant of each other. And more tolerant people don’t have so much hatred in their hearts, do they?

Follow other trips of Catarina, through Instagram and Pinterest.

 

Sónia Justo, Lovely Lisbonner

– How would you describe your way of doing tourism?

I don’t have a “standard” way of doing tourism. I believe we should do what makes us happy. In one trip I can feel like putting the backpack and go discover a country. On the next, I can go to a resort, or take a tour.

– Which destinations do you think will be featured next year? Why?

No doubt that Portugal will continue to be on the top of the list.

– What destination would you recommend to a friend? Why?

For me, Italy will always be my country of choice. It has the perfect combination of gastronomy, friendly people, history, and culture.

The first time I was in Italy was in 1998, on a trip where we visited several cities, it was the first of many trips that my mother and I did (the first one without my father), and it was very remarkable. Italy is in my heart.

– 2017 was considered the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. How do you see that tourists can contribute to more sustainable tourism?

Tourists have a fundamental role in global awareness of the need to preserve local cultures as well as fauna and flora. A simple example is to follow the local recommendations. For example in the Berlengas islands [Peniche, Portugal] there are posters asking not to leave trash on the island, a gesture as simple as bringing back with us all the garbage we made during the day, has a huge impact.

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Joana Batista, Viajar Em Família

– How would you describe your way of doing tourism?

I do tourism in a very personalized way. 🙂 I research, organize and book everything by myself, but always thinking about the personal tastes of the various members of the family. I like to vary and experience a bit of everything from a hostel to a 5-star hotel, from the typical tavern to sophisticated dishes. And I usually travel in a very relaxed, spontaneous and timely manner (it may seem strange, but I don’t remember the last time I booked a trip months in advance).

– Which destinations do you think will be featured next year? Why?

All that provide experiences and unique moments to each visitor. Because I think it doesn’t matter if it’s a destination very or little known if it’s far or near home. What matters is to be able to make each place a special place in our own way. It’s important that the person feel different, happier, richer and fuller when they return.

– What destination would you recommend to a friend? Why?

Portugal. Each time I return from an international trip, I always reach the same conclusion: Portugal is the best country in the world! It’s small, but it has a lot of diversity. It has good weather and good food. It has security and beautiful landscapes. It’s so hard to beat all that. 😉

– 2017 was considered the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. How do you see that tourists can contribute to more sustainable tourism?

They can whenever possible support local trade, help the local population by consuming seasonal products, produced near the place of consumption. Walk a lot on foot or by public transport. And something so simple, but still so often neglected: don’t leave garbage in the places you visit or don’t take from nature anything more than good times.

Follow other trips from Sónia through Facebook and Instagram.

 

World Tourism Day

World Tourism Day

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