Does tourism hurt the planet ? Economist, Thomas Friedman’s viewpoints

This months issue of National Geographic Traveler has an interview with Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist who writes about economic issues and is the author of the book The World is Flat. Keith Bellows, the editor of the magazine asked the questions.

One question dove into the idea of how much does tourism hurt the planet and what should be done about it. In Friedman’s mind, that depends on how tourism is conducted. If people travel without a thought in their heads about the environment, then even the smallest amount of travel can do much damage. But, if people remain cognizant of taking care, then the damage is minimized and travel offers more positives than negatives.

As he points out, and what we’ve learned here at Gadling from our own travels, travel makes places seem relevant so that people are more likely to want to take care of them if they’ve experienced them and the people who live there first hand. Learning about deforestation of the rain forest, for example, has more meaning if you’ve actually been in a rain forest.

Friedman did say that some attractions need more regulations, such as the Pyramids in Egypt. If people can walk all over them willy nilly than they will be destroyed for the rest of us. In my opinion, that’s why organizations like UNESCO’s World Heritage and the National Park Service are so important.

In Friedman’s interview, he also talked about how he and his wife have helped their two daughters grow into global citizens who like to travel. To read the article yourself, click here. Thanks to Intelligent Travel for pointing me to the article.

Matt Harding of video “Dancing” named Traveler of the Year

My favorite video of all times is Matt Harding’s Dancing. Every time I’m at a friend’s house and someone is on the Internet, I say, “Hey, there’s something you have to see.” The last time that happened was two days ago in Ottawa, Ohio, the town whose flood I wrote about last January.

Janelle Nanosen at Intelligent Travel offered up Harding’s video yesterday as worthy of end of the year attention. Considering that I had just visited Harding’s website, and it’s such a feel good look at the world’s people, here it is again.

Janelle mentions that Harding was given kudos by World Hum as Traveler of the Year. Of course he was, and rightfully so. As my friend, Tom Barlow at Wallet Pop said when he first saw it, “People in Hollywood spend millions of dollars trying to create the feeling that this guy was able to do in just four minutes.”

As we move into 2009, here’s hoping your travels bring you this feeling every day of the year. Wouldn’t that be great?

Welcoming home total strangers at JFK: ImprovEverywhere

In an Absolut World, Everyone Would be Welcomed Home from ImprovEverywhere on Vimeo.

One Gadling post that consistently gets weekly hits, sometimes daily, is the one on ImprovEverywhere’s “Frozen Grand Central.” The Grand Central stunt is an amazing feat of ingenuity and organization on the part of this improv drama troupe that specializes in creating fun and amazement in public places. I think of it as a more creative, involved version of Candid Camera. Plus, it involves way more people.

My favorite ImprovEverywhere stunt, hands down, is Food Court Musical.

This most recent improvisation comes pretty close. It involved 20 ImprovEverywhere actors who were the greeters, and the unsuspecting travelers who arrived at JFK expecting to be met by a driver and no one else. The drivers (only the first one is shown) didn’t know they were in on something a bit unusual.

The result is something charming and heartwarming. Very sweet and very fun. How terrific life would be if EVERYONE had such a greeting upon arrival at an airport. The closest I ever came was arriving in Hawaii and being given a lei. My great aunt and uncle met me, so don’t expect a lei if you arrive in Honolulu. Maybe, but don’t count on it.

Thanks to Intelligent Traveler for first posting on this gem. It made my day.

The traveler’s plea to the next U.S. president

If you’ve followed Gadling for any length of time, you’ve probably caught on that topics range from the serious to the not so serious–from the straight-forward to the downright loopy. Throughout the bounty are our thoughts and interpretations of what it means to be a traveler in the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re heading just a few blocks from where you live to the farthest corners from where you were born. The point is movement outwards.

In this past year, there have been oodles of stories of travelers’ woes and concerns, many that have moved our readers to add comments. Problems with TSA, high gas prices that created a nose dive to vacation plans, shifting airline regulations, airline shutdowns, and reduced amenities on certain flights have lengthened the list of issues that might make a traveler say, “I have a bone to pick with somebody.”

Christopher Elliot who gave us tongue-in-cheek, but kind of serious, ideas for items a plane might ditch has been thinking again. In his essay, “Dear Mr. President” in this month’s issue of National Geographic Traveler he outlines the bones to pick issues–the ones that he would like to take up with the next U.S. president. As Elliot sees it travel related concerns can be divided into the following categories and have relevance to the bigger picture concerns of economics and freedom of movement.

Here they are:

  • Gas prices: High gas prices kept many people staying closer to home or not traveling at all. High fuel prices wrecked havoc on airlines.
  • A weak dollar: This made travel to Europe and other popular vacation hot spots incredibly expensive, thus many didn’t go there.
  • Struggling airlines: Airlines struggling to keep afloat have not been a picnic when it comes to flying.
  • Security hassles: Passport regulations, border issues, and TSA lines to name some have enticed people to just stay home.
  • Travel Restrictions: How about loosening those travel restrictions to Cuba for starters?

In conjunction with Elliot’s essay, and with the U.S. election today, Intelligent Travel is asking readers to present their own ideas on what the next president should consider when it comes to those issues that affect travelers. Here’s today’s section, and here’s yesterday’s where you can comment away. Or comment here, and we’ll pass on the message. [photo by d.c. John]

National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel grows up

Over at National Geographic, the young Intelligent Travel blog is taking over the world — wandering around The Explorer Cruise Ship, hobknobbing with bands, winning awards and raising eyebrows. It seems like just a few months ago that they were getting on their feet, and now they’ve taken the step forward into fully integrating with National Geographic Traveler.

Now, instead of wandering over to the old typepad website, one can link into the IT blog straight from the Traveler homepage — just like all of the site’s other blogs. This is a big step for IT, their editors (who I hear are pretty rad) and everything that they have worked so hard on up until now — so congratulations, everyone.

Now. Can we talk about the color scheme a bit? What happened to the glorious, pretty background and styling? I know that you’re fitting into the template that Traveler has laid out for you, but this is pretty minimalist.

Needless to say, I see only fantastic things happening in the future for IT, one of the few travel blogs that have maintained a high standard, excellent writing and a focused editorial throughout their life. Good luck out there in DC.