Support Local Businesses, but Who Gets to be the Local?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, local as an adjective means “from, existing in, serving, or responsible for a small area, especially of a country

If you travel to another country and you have this passion to be an impactful traveler, the simplest thing you can do is track where your tourist money goes to avoid what is called the ‘Tourism Leakage’. It simply means that a huge chunk of your tourist dollar leaves the country to where you travel instead of doing its magic to the locals. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 70% of tourist money in Thailand ended up leaving the country. That is also 80% of the Caribbean’s and 40% of India’s tourist money that left their countries instead of contributing to the local economy.

Why does this happen? World Travel & Tourism Council stated that the multinational company is mostly responsible for the Tourism Leakage. With their longstanding reputation, there is no doubt that travelers tend to choose them for the sake of convenience and quality assurance. Some of the multinational companies are slowly shifting towards contributing more to the local communities and projects, but you don’t need to wait for a miracle for change to happen. You can take the change into your own hands by leaving your tourist money to where it should be, the locals. Stay at local accommodations, explore with responsible local guides, eat at locally-sourced restaurants or buy locally made souvenirs. In fact, according to the data from the United Nations of World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the ABTA, experiential travel and local experiences have gained popularity, especially among young travelers. The trend has shifted for better tourism.

Local tourism brings another question for those who want to travel more responsibly.

“To what extent can I consider someone or a business a local?”

There is no exact definition or dividing line of who gets to be the local in terms of tourism but we need to think about how our impact and money contribute to the local economy. It could be on the scale of a town, region or country. Some of the great examples of local enterprises and businesses in Indonesia that maximize the impact of every tourist dollar spent are Sudut Lombok, Rumah Inspirasi Jogja, Five Pillar Experiences Bali and many more.

Furthermore, due to its great tourism potential, Indonesia has attracted investors from all over the world to start and expand their businesses here, which leads us to another question,

“How can we know if it is a local business? It’s owned by foreigners. “

In order for a business to be considered a local business, it has to create an impact on the community, even if it is owned or founded by foreigners. Foreigners in this context are just a matter of nationality and physical appearance while their intention is to contribute to the local economy and working towards improvements in the community. With countless of emerging issues across the globe, collaborations become the essential attribute to create a better world. Nationalities are no longer become the boundaries to create changes. Collaborations are what we need to create a better world.

One of the examples that have become the pioneer in this matter is Marit and Andrew Miners, the couple behind the Misool Eco Resort and Misool Foundation. They came to an island of Batbitim of what used to be a center for shark finning camp. It was responsible for 100 million sharks to be killed each year. Fast forward now the UK-Sweden couple has not only has grown the business to contribute to the local economy and community but also made Misool as “one of only a handful of places in the universe where biodiversity is improving rather than declining.” Erdmann also raved that “There is greater biodiversity — that is to say, a larger number and greater diversity of fish, coral, and mollusks — on these reefs than anywhere on earth.” Read their full story here.

In conclusion, it brings back to a part of the Local definition by Cambridge Dictionary “..existing, serving or responsible..” When it comes to determining which one is considered a local business or enterprise, it takes a little bit of research particularly about the business values and mission, what changes have they done and continue doing to the local communities. The owners might be people from the community or country but it can also be foreigners that are passionate about making an impact on the communities.

Now is the time to be an impactful traveler. Leave your tourist money to where it belongs!

This post is also published on SloMo Travel Indonesia website

Published by

Gita Natalia

I wander through travel, through books, and through people. My writing is the fruit of all of the above

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