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Owen Davis
Owen Davis

The Last Tourist


Travel is at a tipping point. From Caribbean beaches to remote villages in Kenya, forgotten voices reveal the real conditions and consequences of one of the largest industries in the world. The role of the modern tourist is on trial.




The Last Tourist



The Last Tourist showcases many of these problems in eye-opening ways that cannot be ignored. Animal cruelty via wildlife tourism is a heartbreaking tourist draw, as the film reveals scenes of elephants being hooked and beaten into submission in order to perform circus tricks or rides for tourists.


Kenya is used as another example, a hot spot for tourism with its Masai Mara safari destination, but here only 14 percent of tourism dollars stay within the country with the remaining 86 percent going to foreign-owned tour operators, airlines, lodge owners, transportation and food that needs to be brought in. The most acclaimed tourist destinations also have the highest levels of poverty.


One of the biggest challenges with becoming a conscious, responsible, sustainable tourist is not knowing how or where to start. Just before the credits begin to roll, The Last Tourist leaves us with a list of tangible calls-to-action so that we can travel more sustainably. Here are some commitments we should all strive to achieve.


"We're unconscious consumers." Utopia has revealed an official trailer for a compelling documentary titled The Last Tourist, made by filmmaker Tyson Sadler. This premiered at the 2021 Vancouver Film Festival last year, and is playing at the 2022 CPH:DOX Film Festival in March. It also opens in the US this March. Travel is at a tipping point. From Carribean beaches to remote villages in Kenya, forgotten voices reveal the real conditions & consequences of one of the largest industries in the world. The role of the modern tourist is on trial. Exec produced by Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of community tourism & adventure operator, G Adventures, The Last Tourist features the world's leading travel and tourism visionaries including Dr. Jane Goodall, Lek Chailert (Save Elephant Foundation), Gary Knell (National Geographic), Meenu Vadera (Sakha Cabs For Women), and Jonathan Tourtellot (Destination Stewardship Center). I truly believe this is an important topic that we need to talk about more. Is tourism really good for the world? Maybe not. But we also want to continue to encourage interaction around the world - so how can we travel in a better way?


The film, which was awarded the "Special Jury Prize for Social Impact" by the Documentary Jury at the Calgary Film Festival, examines the history of modern tourism and offers a critique on its current state of affairs. It explores many important topics including animals suffering for entertainment, orphan children exploited for profit, and developing economies strained under the massive weight of foreign-owned hotel chains. We meet local heroes who are leveraging tourism to preserve cultural heritage, sustain wildlife, and support the social and economic wellbeing of communities. The Last Tourist empowers audiences with knowledge and inspiration to make a positive impact and fundamentally change the way we travel. The Last Tourist is directed by doc filmmaker Tyson Sadler, making his first feature after numerous other short films previously. This first premiered at the 2021 Vancouver Film Festival last year. Utopia will debut Sadler's The Last Tourist direct-to-VOD in the US starting on March 15th, 2022 coming soon. Interested?


Travel is at a tipping point. Tourists are unintentionally destroying the very things they have come to see. Overtourism has magnified its impact on the environment, wildlife, and vulnerable communities around the globe. Filmed in over 16 countries and guided by the world's leading tourism and conservation visionaries, The Last Tourist reveals the real conditions and consequences of one of the largest industries worldwide through the forgotten voices of those working in its shadow. The role of the modern tourist is on trial.


Leonard Cohen, who died last week at the age of 82, visited Havana at a most unusual time. His sister, Esther, had honeymooned there before the 1959 revolution, and Cohen was curious to see the place. He was also following the route of his literary mentor, Garcia Lorca, who preceded him in Havana.


Cohen grew a beard and searched for Havana nightlife, which was rapidly diminishing as the revolutionary government closed the casinos and fun-loving Americans turned their vacation sights elsewhere. Cohen described himself at that moment as "the last tourist in Havana."


Among the most articulate speakers in the film is Judy Kepher-Gona, the Kenya-based founder of the Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda. She points out that only 14 percent of tourist spending stays in Kenya; the rest flows out of the country.


There's a particularly moving scene near the end of the film where Yachak Delfin Pauchi Yalishara, founder of Pimpilala Lodge in Ecuador, takes western tourists into the Amazon rain forest. There, he explains the spiritual significance of the plants and a waterfall, demonstrating why it's so important to preserve these natural treasures.


World travel to explore history, art, and nature as well as experience various cultures, cuisines, music ranks among my greatest passions. So this documentary connected well with me. I found myself "re-living" many tourist experiences throughout the film.


The essential takeaways the filmmaker leaves the viewer with is that 1) tourists are wrecking localities they visit and 2) it is entirely up to the tourist to fix overarching tourism industry problems. Instead of calling countries with tourism industries to account for their corrupt practices and abuses of their own people, they blame issues entirely on tourists themselves. For example, they interview a woman they who came to Kenya to tutor children in English. She had no background in tutoring and was able to apply and start working within the space of three weeks. The filmmaker presents this woman as the villain, when in reality the actual villain is the corrupt government who allows such things to happen unchecked because it benefits those at the top.


In February 2022, Charlie touched down in Siberia to undertake a long, Arctic expedition. A few days later Russia invaded Ukraine. Most journalists left the country, and so did most of the tourists. Charlie decided to stay.


The main takeaway of the film is positive though: tourism is a powerful industry that can be harnessed in a way that creates shared value for both travellers and host communities while preserving the places and natural resources we treasure most. But those choices lie directly at the feet of those taking the trips and making the purchasing decisions. To further underline that point, during the Q and A session following the showing, several individuals from the tourism industry took to the mic about this. They expressed concern about the lack of demand for EcoTourism and how even well-meaning travellers fall for classic tourist traps without realizing the devastating consequences of supporting them.


In Thailand, viewers learn about the cruel, heartbreaking conditions of elephants being beaten into submission to be used for riding and entertainment. In Jamaica, local artisans deplore tourism revenue "leakage", as cruise lines act as gatekeepers for tourist dollars by holding a tight reign over where their cruisers visit during a stop in port. In Kenya, we learn about the emotional toll voluntourism takes on children in orphanages as a revolving door of tourists come and go from their lives. We hear an astonishing statistic that only 14% of tourism dollars spent in Kenya actually stay in the country.


The COVID-19 pandemic has, at least temporarily, somewhat re-written the travel playbook. On the down side, struggling tourist-dependent nations were hit hard by massive losses in international revenues.


Would this be acceptable in your country? Would strangers ever be allowed to randomly hop into a childcare setting, play with kids and then leave? Absolutely not. So why is this being normalized and supported in international destinations? Well-intentioned tourists are not doing their research to understand the negative impacts of the trips they are partaking in.


Torrential rains caused mudslides and swelled the Urubamba River last Sunday, stripping away long sections of the railway that is the only transportation in and out of the area around the Inca citadel. Thousands of tourists were stranded. A helicopter flew out the final group at 5:15 p.m. Friday.


Did you happen to notice a little item in the news the other day about travel? It said that 14 Chinese tourists had flown into Moscow for a two-week visit. It said that a month earlier a group of Soviet tourists had been in China.


What interests me most about all this is that the Chinese were actively building up their ties with the ''satellite'' countries for six months before they reached the point of letting the 20 Soviet ''tourists'' come to China, and then sent their own 14 back to Moscow.


I have not been able to find the date of the last tourist exchanges between Moscow and Peking, but we do know that the relationship between the two biggest communist countries went sour beginning in 1957 or '58. Moscow crushed independence in Hungary in November 1956. That sent a shock wave through other communist countries in Eastern Europe.


China did nothing to help the Poles during the Solidarity story. Its eyes had been turned to the Pacific and its new relations with the United States. It had not had effective relations with Moscow during those 20 years when tourists did not travel between Moscow and Peking. There was nothing it could do to help Poland.


But this spring China was once more taking an interest in what is going on along the rim of captive states which separates Moscow from Western Europe. And that in turn makes it all the more interesting that those little clumps of tourists have been exchanged between Peking and Moscow. 041b061a72


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