What is with all the backpacker hatin’ by tourism boards?
I still think of myself as a backpacker, or perhaps more accurately a flashpacker. That is how I learned to travel more than 30 years ago and that is how I like to travel now. I can afford to travel more like the high-end visitors the tourist boards crave, and sometimes I do. But a Marriott hotel feels the same everywhere. I prefer the independent travel route because it is more interesting, more exciting, and a much better way to get a feel for a country and interact with locals in a meaningful way. But here I am preaching to the choir...
Well said. On the roof? Again?
Fascinating. Thanks for this. I feel like I’ve backpacked my whole life, from going round China, Europe, and the US in the late 90s staying in dorms and eating cheaply to flying safaris in Botswana in the late 2000s and priveleged trips around Southeast Asia a couple of years ago with kids in tow. I’m sure more of my cash as a backpacker stayed in the community than now and I strive to get back to that flow of travel. Admittedly, now we do take the private car/taxi rather than the bus and treat ourselves to a few other luxuries. When we have recently stayed at backpacker hostels we get some strange (yet friendly) looks and it leads to interesting conversations ’why are you staying here...’
I too still think of myself as a backpacker despite the fact that I fly Business class long haul these days. However yes I could stay in fancy International hotels if I took shorter holidays but quite frankly I would rather spend $4 a night in a homestay in Chi Phat that is very basic but owned by a lovely family who are friends on mine now and eat and drink in the village all of which helps keep the locals from destroying the forest. ( since Nicky visited the village now has 24 hour electricity and the first bungalows with A/C have made an appearance)
I think one thing missing from this article is that there are two (at least) distinct types of backpacker those that tend to follow the banana pancake trail and gravitate where ever other Westerners are and those that like to get off the beaten path and spend time interacting with the local population.
It would be interesting to know how much of the money spent by the latter and how much of that spent by the International jet setter actually end up in the hands of locals
Like Daniel and Mark I too have the means to treat myself and take the odd flight or car rather than the bus and a sleeper on the train rather than 3rd class or eat at a good restaurant and not survive on street food and do so but first and foremost I just love being in places where I am not going to see any "westerners" and I can get to know the locals ( I have always been a slow traveler and when I was working with my 4 weeks annual holiday I would explore just a part of a country and come back to explore another part so it took me 5 or 6 visits to see Cambodia)
This is interesting but it does not acknowledge that capacity/infrastructure is a restricting factor. If backpackers need to stay eg twice as long in destination to spend as much in total as a higher-end traveller, then the number of hotel rooms required is double, and you need twice as many backpackers to generate the same amount of revenue in the same period as the higher-spending tourist. This fundamentally upends the economics of tourism and points in the direction of more environmental damage in the pursuit of more hotels, cafes, restaurants etc just to build the capacity to accommodate the longer-staying, lower-spending per day backpacker.
And you ask why tourism boards don't target backpackers? Because they're a very small proportion of tourists who don't spend as much PER DAY and therefore don't provide the best return on investment for marketing spend/investment by destinations