Pondering travel’s future while questioning the ethics of travel today

Everyone wants to travel again like they did before the pandemic struck, but just how ethical is it to be visiting other countries and even regions of your own country in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak?

That was the first question posed to a trio of travel journalists by G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip who participated in an online discussion he moderated from his Toronto office last Wednesday entitled Retravel Live: An important discussion about travel.

Juliet Kinsman , the sustainability editor of Condé Nast Traveller, U.K. and the author of The Green Edit: Travel: Easy tips for the eco-friendly traveller, thought it was a question that few people were actually asking and felt it was an important one, but her answer fell short of providing a clear recommendation.

“I personally have tried to park my judgment throughout this time,” said Kingsman. “I cannot tell you whether you could or should travel to that destination. You do what’s right for you. As with anything in life, you just think if you are ever putting anyone else in danger and therefore making a decision that they’re not complicit with well, I guess you shouldn’t do it.”

Poon Tip thought that people should think of travel as a privilege and not a right, but didn’t think that it was necessarily the best time to be exploring the world.

“I think everyone agrees that non-essential travel right now is not something that anyone would suggest, but if they’re talking about when borders start to open and when people are allowed to travel and there’s inherent risk prior to a vaccine, I think it’s your choice and I do think you can do it an ethical way,” he said.

Another of the panelists, Elizabeth Becker, the author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism, felt that it was okay to visit other places during the pandemic, but to scrupulously follow whatever health guidelines those destinations have put in place and that we need to be mindful of the safety others, no matter where we go.

“I would like all of us to think that we’re citizens of where we are and where we are going to visit so if you’re visiting somewhere, you follow those rules. You may not like them; you may argue with them; you may think you can avoid the two-week quarantine. No, that’s not ethical, as well as not legal,” she said.

Helping tourism destinations from home

Becker reminded people that whatever place they live in is also a tourist destination for others so if you can’t travel, then consider frequenting restaurants and other tourist attractions in your own home town in order to support them during this downturn. If you have a favourite faraway place that is reliant on tourism, then consider making some kind of donation that will help people there, she added.

“That’s all I can do,” she said. “I can’t solve the world’s problems, but I feel much better thinking of my own city and of the place that I love.”

George Stone, the editor of National Geographic Traveler U.S., said that during the pandemic he has personally been donating $100 each month to a different charity and suggested travellers think about places that have been special for them and find ways to give money back, especially if it can help hospitality workers or others who work in tourism-related businesses that have been hard hit by the lack of visitors.

“It’s not a fortune, but it’s actually been really fun for me and then when a new month happens, I’m like ‘oh, what am I going to do?” he said. “I spent some time in North Carolina so I gave to Appalachian Mountain Conservancy. So (look for) things that touch you… recollect some of those memories and then do a little something (for that place.)”

Predicting where travel will be in five years

Much of the rest of the 75-minute conversation dealt with the future of travel after the pandemic and the importance of reinventing an industry that accounts for 10 percent of the world’s GDP. The consensus was that the status quo is not sustainable and that the pandemic may be a blessing in disguise as it gives us an opportunity to re-evaluate how we want to travel in the future.

Becker spoke about the environmental degradation caused by our globetrotting ways and could even see there being no-fly days in the future in order to curb global emissions. She hoped that industry leaders become more political, not to get favourable handouts from governments and looser regulations, but to be at the table, fighting for a greener future.

“I want to see the travel industry as political as anybody else about protecting the planet,” she said.

Stone said he believes that we are going to see a better sort of traveller after the pandemic, someone who is more engaged in the conversations that are relevant to places and has a more nuanced sense of the layers that go into a destination.

“In this period of racial reckoning, I’m someone who really is thinking more critically about communities and identity,” he added. “I don’t see how we can go through this and not come out touched and moved and changed so, aspirationally, I really want to see travellers at their best in five years asking tough questions and then that’s going to lead to the impacts and the bigger changes that both Julia and Elizabeth have pointed to so my goal is to try to support that.”

Poon Tip said that he and the leadership of G Adventures are using the opportunity of the slowdown to reinvent how they do business, thinking like a startup with 30 years of knowledge of experience.

“I’m of the mindset that travel wasn’t in a great place before this forced pause and so there’s great opportunity for us to rethink and restart,” said Poon Tip, a topic which he also touched upon in freely available instabook Unlearn – The Year the Earth Stood Still.

“If we get anything out of this pandemic, I hope that that a small group of people understand the power and privilege they have when they decide to travel,” said Poon Tip. “There are so few people on this planet that have that luxury to say I’m bored with my present community environment and I want to travel to somewhere else to see another community environment. This is a luxury that we have. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege that we have in the developed world.”

G Adventures plans to host similar conversations about the future of travel. The next one will be October 15 at 12:30pm EDT when world-renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE will join Poon Tip to discuss travel’s impact on wildlife around the world and how travellers can do their part to help protect the creatures that we share our planet with.

Join the conversation by signing up at https://retravellive.com/.

Exploring the best of Turkey with G Adventures

When I told friends and family that I was travelling to Turkey, they worried that it wasn’t safe, then when I got there, the headlines back home spoke of the country’s military incursion into Syria, but the fighting might well have been on another continent, because I was 1,500 kilometres removed from it and in this land that has witnessed conflict for millennia, it had virtually no effect on everyday life.

I was in Turkey with G Adventures on their Best of Turkey itinerary, a small group tour that spends eight days exploring the country, first arriving in Istanbul then motoring around the western reaches of Turkey for the next week before returning to Istanbul for a final day of exploration in advance of the flight back to Canada.

It’s amazing how much we were able to see and experience in such a short time. Here are some of the highlights:

A pilgrimage to Gallipoli
The battlefields of Gallipoli are hallowed ground for the people of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey alike.

Our first stop was to visit the First World War cemeteries of Gallipoli, sacred ground for not only Australia and New Zealand, but Turkey as well. The skies were grey, the wind was cold and the clouds threatened rain, fitting weather for our visit to ANZAC Cove, where we saw the forbidding cliffs overlooking the initial landing beach of the Allied invasion force. We learned about the doomed military campaign of 1915 and 1916 that cost the lives of more than 100,000 soldiers on both sides with hundreds of thousands more wounded.

As we walked through the graveyards of white marble tombstones, I heard Australian and New Zealand accents of other visitors as they commented to each other on how young the dead were that lay before us. For them, this land is what Vimy Ridge is to Canadians, a First World War battle that stirred the first feelings of national consciousness, as we began to break away from our colonial past. They were in this distant land to make a pilgrimage to honour that sacrifice.

We also toured one of the sombre cemeteries that housed Ottoman war dead, complete with patriotic statues and slogans as victory at Gallipoli is seen here as a pivotal moment in the creation of the modern nation of Turkey as it was where their founder and first president Kamâl Atatürk came to prominence as a field commander.

The news about Turkey’s incursion into Syria remind us that the repercussions of the First World War are still with us.

This is an excerpt. To read the rest of the story, please visit Canada.com.

The past comes to life in these 10 Canadian living history museums

Most museums feature static displays of artifacts and maybe a few interactive screens, but living history museums really make the past come alive by having costumed re-enactors walk among visitors in historical places to explain and demonstrate what life was like in times gone by.

There are numerous locations in Canada where visitors can experience living history museums. They can see how their ancestors lived and often get some hands-on instructions on how to do things the old-fashioned way, something that children are especially fascinated by.

From east to west, here are 10 Canadian living history museums that you won’t want to miss. Some operate all year, others only during the warm weather while some close during the fall and winter, only opening for special events, especially around Christmas, so be sure to check their websites for the latest info.

Norstead, Newfoundland

If you journey to the northern tip of Newfoundland, you can visit L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site to see the remains of the only Viking settlement known to have existed in North America. There’s a sod house on site with costumed actors that is a lot of fun, but for a more expansive Viking experience, visit nearby Norstead, a recreation of an entire Norse village. Learn how to forge iron, get your fortune told and see Snorri, a massive replica of a Viking ship that has actually sailed across the Atlantic, proving that Leif Erikson could have done the same.

Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, Nova Scotia

The 18th-century Fortress of Louisbourg sits on a windswept stretch of Cape Breton, welcoming visitors to step back to a time when France and England battled for supremacy in North America. Walk through the immaculately-restored walls of this stone city and chat with people that live there like soldiers, bakers and craftsmen, most of whom will remain in character as you interact with them. A new virtual reality experience, The Messenger, will bring you back to 1744 as you race against time to deliver a message to the fortress about English spies.

Kings Landing Historical Settlement, New Brunswick

Kings Landing boasts one of the largest collections of historic artifacts in eastern Canada which is on display at the site’s museum, but visitors really come here to interact with costumed characters from New Brunswick’s colourful past to experience life in the 19th century. You’re encouraged to step into their homes to talk to them, help them with their chores on the farm or in the village and imagine you are in another time. Kids love it, but so do their parents.

This is just an excerpt. You can read the rest of the story on Canada.com.

Tourists have the power to make the world a better place, says G Adventures founder

You may think of your vacation as just a way to get away and relax for a few days, but how you spend your money when you travel affects whether or not it actually benefits the people who live there.

“I think the first thing people have to do is get away from all-inclusive holidays,” said Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of Toronto-based small group adventure travel company and social enterprise G Adventures.

Poon Tip spoke to Canada.com on the occasion of World Tourism Day, an annual event marked by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) every September 27. This year’s theme is about the role of tourism in creating jobs, something that the UNWTO says is often undervalued despite tourism generating 10 percent of the world’s employment.

“People should ask questions to make sure they’re staying in locally-owned accommodations and then when they get there, just go out and shop at different places and hire different local guides to spread their wealth when they spend their money,” said Poon Tip.

To read the rest of the story, please visit Canada.com.

Rescuing baby puffins in Newfoundland

I point my flashlight through the night air at a white-coloured object on the road, thinking I have found a baby puffin. My excitement turns to disappointment when I realize it is nothing more than a discarded coffee cup.

A light rain falls as I wander the streets of the tiny coastal town of Witless Bay, a short drive south from St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. I am searching for baby birds because I have joined the Puffin and Petrel Patrol. It is a dedicated band of volunteers who comb the streets of communities near the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve every late summer, looking for fledgling birds that are drawn to the towns’ artificial lights, confusing them for the moon and the stars by which they navigate to sea.

The thing about puffins and baby puffins—more properly known by the all-too-cute name of pufflings—is that they are much better swimmers than fliers. If these six-week-old baby birds become stranded on land, they aren’t always able to get back to sea without human help. The patrol spends hours every night during the fledgling season in August and September rescuing hundreds of these birds before they become injured or killed by cars or predators.

Read the rest of the story on WestJet Magazine.