How globalization normalized adventuring beyond the West
Over the last century, travelers have loved seeing the historical sights of Europe or relaxing on the beaches of the Caribbean. However, recent trends have shown a spike in travel to less traditional destinations.
A 2013 study conducted by Pearson Education shows a 0.3 percent increase in travel to Asian nations and a 1.9 percent increase in travel to South American countries among American tourists.
Rachel Gould, the director of study abroad at Ithaca College, said she sees these same travel trends in students’ study abroad decisions.
“A lot of students that come to me want to study abroad in places like China, India and South Africa,” Gould said. “It seems people are less worried about being far away from home and are looking for a unique cultural experience.”
The Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange of 2014 shows that the number of students studying abroad in Asia has increased by more than 20,000 students, and student travel to sub-Saharan Africa has increased by more than 10,000 students since 1998. China has also joined the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and France in the top five study abroad destinations among American students.
Gould said she attributes the popularity growth of these destinations largely to social media.
“Social media has changed people’s experiences for traveling abroad,” Gould said. “It allows them to stay connected to home 24 hours a day when they’re overseas. I remember when I was a student abroad. …My parents and I would talk for five minutes and send letters, but that was it.”
Additionally, Charles McKenzie, a lecturer who teaches a globalization seminar at Ithaca College, said the advertising aspect of social media can have a positive impact on a traveler’s vacation in another country through Internet searches that broaden the horizons of all a tourist can see and experience abroad.
“It used to be that when you traveled, you relied on a handful of popular tour books, a travel agency or a tour guide,” McKenzie said. “All can be helpful but often homogenize a destination. A simple Internet search can give an adventurous tourist a more authentic experience and get them off of the paths well trampled by the hordes.”
On the contrary, studies show that modern-day trips are much shorter than they used to be due to quicker transportation and the fast-paced influence of media like blogs, the Internet and travel channels. Travel agent Tammy Graham of Ithaca Sun Travel, said this brevity has led today’s travelers to immerse themselves less in the cultures they visit.
“Unfortunately, today, because of many influences, people are generally less polite, dress poorly to travel and are much more impatient,” Graham said. “Today’s technology has helped and hurt us tremendously.”
Gould also said social media has deprived international travelers of total cultural involvement.
“It’s hard for students to separate themselves and immerse in the new culture completely when they are constantly trying to keep in touch with their friends and family from back home,” Gould said. She said the progression of globalization has also expanded student curiosity about other cultures and impacted travel trends.
“Most of us recognize the importance of being a more global citizen, and that Western Europe no longer fulfills this expectation,” Gould said. She also said there are practical reasons that students travel to more locations than before, such as the purpose of professional development as it relates to globalization.
“A lot of countries we consider less traditional are becoming bigger players in the world, especially China. Knowing these countries and their cultures and language is important in terms of career and personal exposure,” Gould said.
McKenzie said wartime has also had an impact on where people travel. For instance, now that countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Croatia have mostly recovered from their respective wars, their tourism industries are booming.
“When there has been conflict in a country, it can take decades for the tourism industry there to recover,” McKenzie said. “That’s part of the travesty for Egypt, which once made so much money from its travel industry.”
He also said voluntourism and ecotourism are other factors shaping the travel industry, especially in terms of travel to developing nations. However, McKenzie said these motivations for travel tend to have a more negative effect on the people and environments of those countries Americans are looking to help.
“Some of these efforts provide minimal assistance and can reinforce notions that crowds of mostly-white Americans can parachute in and save the day,” McKenzie said. “The tourists themselves can be patronizing and insensitive even when they think they are helping.”
The media has a considerable impact on travel trends by advertising the ways in which Americans can go abroad, he said. Companies market themselves by offering voluntourism opportunities for clients willing to pay for the trips, but McKenzie said there is rarely transparency about these opportunities.
“Prospective tourists, like those giving to charities, should look into where their money is actually going,” McKenzie said. “The trips can be quite expensive, and the money sometimes goes not to the people or area who need it but to the tourism companies themselves.
Despite the both negative and positive impacts globalization and media have had on travel culture in the last decade, much of traveling has not changed, especially among older generations. Graham said the most popular destinations for her clients are still Western European countries and Caribbean islands.
“My clients love warm places with beaches and palm trees,” Graham said. “They are looking for a vacation from normal life and its stresses.”
Natalie Shanklin is a freshman journalism major who wrote this article during an international layover. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.