World Tourism Day Promotes Energy Awareness With Photo Contest

World Tourism Day

World Tourism Day is coming up on September 27 and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) hopes to raise awareness about the role of tourism within the international community. Showing how tourism affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide, this year’s theme puts a spotlight on the role of tourism in a brighter energy future.

If the United Nations has its way that will be a future in which the world’s entire population has access to modern, efficient and affordable energy services. To raise awareness, the UN hosted a photo contest looking for pictures that captured new ideas to increase energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy and photos showing how tourism is bringing modern and clean energy to local communities.

%Gallery-166318%With a record 467 million tourists traveling in the first half of 2012, international tourism is on track to reach one billion tourists by the end of the year. That means there are one billion reasons to focus on a tourism industry committed to using energy responsibly. On cruise vacations alone, a record 20 million people took a cruise last year, an increase of almost 2 million, according to the latest industry figures.

As much of an impact as the global tourism industry has on the environment, those visiting destinations around the world can have a huge impact by focusing on being eco-friendly travelers, as we see in this video:


Maldives Social Media Campaign Backfires

When the Maldives Tourism Board urged fans of the islands to help make their tourism slogan, “The Sunny Side of Life,” a global trend on Thursday, the campaign backfired. Instead of spreading positive words about the tropical paradise, tweets about police brutality and political illegitimacy spread like wildfire.

The social media campaign, which aimed to make the hashtag #SunnySideofLife a global trend, kicked off on the tourism board’s Twitter account, @myvisitmaldives, with this simple tweet: “Maldives has been awarded as the Most Romantic Destination in the World #SunnySideofLife.”

Readers, most of whom seem to be Maldivian citizens, shot back with some words of their own. Here is a sampling of some of the choice words they had:

  • #SunnySideofLife where a resort owner withhold staff salary, but spends millions to BUY a seat in parliament!!
  • Evening plans? I’m joining the protest after work.. can’t stand to watch fellow citizens being beaten by the police #SunnySideofLife
  • #Maldives not paradise for its people. Brutal coup regime suppressing our rights to freedom of expression & assembly. #SunnySideofLife
  • ThankU Coup Government of Maldives for #SunnySideofLife event. We’ll make sure to pass your acts of brutality to Twittersphere.
  • #SunnySideOfLife: Pristine white sandy beaches, crystal clear lagoons filled with blood of its citizens who are fighting for democracy
  • Visit the only place where ur tourism dollar will facilitate coup makers to persecute its people in the #sunnysideoflife

Other tweets included pictures of alleged victims of police brutality, participants in political protests and more. Most of the tweets were aimed at the current government, which was installed after President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted last February. Nasheed, one of the founders of the Maldivian Democratic Party who is well respected by the people of the Maldives, claims he was forced to resign at gunpoint and is calling on his successor, Mohamed Waheed, to resign immediately and hold elections.

When all is said and done, the tourism board did reach their goal of making #SunnySideofLife a global trend. Tweets featuring the hashtag are still filtering in, but few of them actually boast about the redeeming qualities of the islands. What’s more, the campaign just-so-happens to coincide with a United Nations hearing that centers on the status of human rights in the Maldives.

Readers, weigh in; do you think the tourism board should have thought out the timing of the campaign’s launch a little more? And does anyone who has been to the Maldives recently have something to share?

[Photo by muha..., Flickr]

10 Volunteer Programs For Budget Travelers

thailand Pay to volunteer? While many people assume volunteering is always free, going abroad to participate in community service projects often costs money. I realized this the first time I volunteered abroad teaching English in Thailand. After doing weeks of research, I found there are a lot of companies charging a small fortune ‒ sometimes thousands of dollars ‒ to have travelers come over and spend their time helping other communities.

Every program is different. Some are completely free but offer no housing or meals. Others may charge a program fee but set you up with accommodation and a local chef. Sometimes programs will also include orientations, airport pickup, language courses, cultural activities and 24/7 support. Keep in mind what you want to get out of your experience while browsing the following list of budget-friendly international volunteer programs.

WWOOFing

WWOOFing is one of the best networks to use for having a worthwhile volunteer experience on a budget. The acronym stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and allows volunteers to browse countries from all over the world to choose an organic farming project that most interests them. In exchange for labor, volunteers usually receive room, board and the chance to experience a culture from a local point of view. Opportunities can be anything from strawberry picking to working with animals to harvesting grapes on a vineyard and making wine. By participating in these types of projects, you’ll be contributing to positive ecotourism and helping to create a healthier planet.SE7EN

SE7EN is a free and low-cost volunteer opportunity network. Their focus is on social and environmental projects from around the world. What makes this option so affordable is that the middleman is cut out, as SE7EN simply lists the projects on their site and allows you to contact hosts directly. Usually, room and board is either provided or very cheap. Some project examples include:

volunteer International Volunteer Headquarters

I’ve used International Volunteer Headquarters many times and highly recommend them. Their placements are very reasonably priced, and are especially great for people who have never volunteered abroad before, as full-time support, an orientation and airport pickup are included. Instead of putting you in a fancy hotel, they allow you to stay with local families and in local villages to really get to know the culture and help the people. Furthermore, certain recreational activities are often included in the price. Their programs, which generally include room and board, are located all around the world and range from about $200-$2,300, depending how long and where your program is. Some placement examples include:

Peace Corps

If you’re really interested in doing community service abroad, have a couple years to spare and want to earn some money; Peace Corps may be for you. There are placements in 75 countries, and volunteers get the chance to work with a community in need for 27 months. The Peace Corps’ mission is to “promote world peace and friendship,” and areas of focus for programs include: health, education, youth and community development, business and information, and communications technology, environment and agriculture. What’s great about going overseas with Peace Corps is they provide you with language, cross-cultural, and technical training, so it can be great for your resume. There are also a lot of benefits, like possible deferment or partial cancellation of your student loans, a monthly stipend and $7,245 payment once the project is completed, free flights to and from the country, vacation days, free medical and dental care during the project and affordable health insurance for 18 months after. It’s more like having a very proactive job than the usual volunteer experience, and you won’t have to pay any kind of fees to participate.

volunteer VAOPS

VAOPS is a directory of free and low-cost volunteer opportunities, which allows you to save money by cutting out the middleman. Because everyone has different needs and wants, their programs vary in price, style, and what’s included. Some examples include:

United Nations

The United Nations is one of the most famous organizations in the world for helping communities in need and working to keep moral responsibility in check. What some people may not know is along with their staffed projects, they also host a volunteer program called United Nations Volunteers (UNV). Volunteers usually work for six to 12 months and can choose from placements in about 130 countries. Projects focus mainly on human rights, agriculture, education, health, information and communication technology, community development, popular, industry and vocational training. It’s free to volunteer with the United Nations and you’ll also be given a monthly stipend, medical insurance and annual leave.

favela Volunteer South America

Want to volunteer in one of the most naturally beautiful continents in the world? Volunteer South America is designed with backpackers and budget-travelers in mind. There are no middleman or agency fees associated with the programs, making them drastically cheaper than many others that exist. Although room and board will not always be included, being able to choose how you will live and eat for yourself can help you save a lot money, especially if you opt for a homestay. Some projects available include:

Winrock

While a bit more competitive than some of the other programs, Winrock places volunteers in diverse programs all around the world and even pays for airfare. When a volunteer position opens up, Winrock places the most qualified individual in the program. Some of their current volunteer opportunities include:

volunteerUBELONG

UBELONG offers one week to six-month volunteer opportunities throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia. While not free, their programs are very affordable and offer all accommodation and meals, orientation, 24/7 support and project supervision. There are also recreational and cultural activities included to help volunteers get to know the country better. Prices for placements range from $250 for two weeks in Peru to $4,320 for six months in the Galapagos, although most six month placements average around $2,300. Some program examples include:

Katelios Group

Located in Greece, the Katelios Group works to help sea turtles. The main objective of the group is to “protect the natural environment on the island of Kefalonia, Greece.” There is no program fee to participate, although room and board is not included. The organization does work to provide volunteers with low-cost accommodation and suggests that participants cook meals together to save money. To give you an idea of how much you will spend, accommodation is usually about $200-$250 per month, while food is normally about $40 per week.

Ivory poaching on the rise thanks to Asian demand and a legal loophole

poaching, ivoryThe poaching of elephant tusks is a growing problem due to increased demand from Asian nations, the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reports.

A loophole in the UN law regulating the ivory trade allows Japan and China to legally purchase some ivory from selected nations under tightly controlled contracts. This has encouraged poachers to smuggle their illegal goods to Asia. Once there, it’s much easier to unload them.

African nations are split on a global ivory ban, with Kenya supporting a ban and Tanzania wanting the trade to be legal. This basically comes down to whether nations want short-term profits by killing their wildlife and hacking their tusks off, or long-term profits from safaris and tourism.

Radio Netherlands reports that 2011 was a record year for ivory seizures, showing that at least some nations are taking the problem seriously. It also suggests, of course, that the trade is on the rise.

Authorities around the world made at least 13 large-scale seizures last year, bagging more than 23 tonnes of ivory. TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, says that represents about 2,500 elephants. The figure is more than twice that of 2010.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress. It dates to sometime between 1880 and 1923, showing poaching isn’t a new problem.

Developing nations see huge gains in tourism revenue

Developing nations are seeing huge benefits from tourismAccording to data collected by the United Nations World Tourism Organizations (UNWTO), developing countries have seen significant gains in both the number of tourists visiting those nations and the amount of revenue generated from visitors over the past decade. In many of those countries, tourism ranks in the top three categories for economic development, demonstrating that travel can play a vital role in helping developing economies mature.

These findings were revealed at a recent United Nations conference on developing economies, with the study revealing that the 48 least developed countries saw the number of travelers rise from 6 million visitors in 2000 to over 17 million in 2010. Perhaps even more encouraging however, is that the revenue generated from those visitors rose from $3 billion to $10 billion.

The UNWTO is hoping that these findings will give developing nations the incentive they need to build a sustainable tourism industry. Tourism is already proving that it can be a driving force in creating new jobs and building a more dynamic economy. Discussions at the special conference centered around just that, with a focus on creating good governance and sustainability practices in tourism; promoting investment in a tourism based economy; nurturing poverty reduction through tourism; and developing methods for training a sustainable work force. Attendees at the conference also discussed ways of protecting their considerable natural and cultural assets as the numbers of visitors rise as well.

It is interesting that despite the harsh global economic climate over the past few years, emerging economies across the planet have continued to see a significant increase in the number of visitors and revenue generated from them. This bodes well for countries looking to improve their economy, and tourism is now seen as a very viable way of climbing out of poverty.

That is definitely something I can put my travel dollars behind.