Tim McGuire Founder and CEO of new venture One Planet Tours believes tourism needs behavior change. In honor of World Tourism Day, McGuire explains what we need to do differently and why it’s crucial for protecting the one planet we all share.
The list of societal norms needing change seems endless. Why is tourism one of them?
We need cultural exchange. That’s how my life was changed. That’s how I got the idea for One Planet Tours. I had an open mind and was able to travel to remote places. I exposed my mind to the beauty of culture, the beauty of landscape, the beauty of biodiversity. Travel is essential to get those feelings and that mindset. You don’t get that exchange unless you go and understand the uniqueness and the plight of other people.
And you believe others will feel similarly.
I’ll tell you a story about my dad. He grew up isolated in Maine for about 62 years. He had a friend who was adopted from Guatemala. When describing him my dad said, “he is from Mexico.” I said dad, he is from Guatemala. He replied, “what is the difference?” I don’t think he was being racist or trying to be ignorant, he really didn’t know. When we moved to Florida, and he got a new job through which he was introduced to people of many different cultures. It’s the best job he ever had! Now my dad is aware of Colombians, Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans—all these different cultures. This new perspective completely changed his political and social beliefs. Just learning about culture can change your perception of the world.
That’s quite the transformation! Do you feel that cultural exchange flows both ways?
We are all on one planet. What they do over there affects us over here, and what we do over here affects them over there. Let’s learn about that and figure out how we can have global solutions. A lot of times Westerners impose our cultural beliefs on others because we believe it’s best. We come from a “rich” country so the “poor” country must be doing it wrong. But at the end of the day, every culture good things and faults. We can come together, if we just come together.
But what about ecotourism? Isn’t it already working towards this?
Ecotourism is great in theory, but it doesn’t go far enough. It’s basically staying in a lodge that protects lemurs so we can play with them. But let’s start at the bottom. How can we get people away from having to degrade the planet? That’s not currently bounded in the ecotourism model. We can do better.
So conservation is focusing solely on the environment and leaving out humans.
Yes. When people are hungry, they need to eat by whatever means necessary. You can’t start by saying let’s protect this forest. Or this lemur. Or by implementing tons of anti-poaching units. You aren’t giving a person that is hungry other opportunities to feed themselves or have a livelihood. You have to invest in people before you can invest in the planet.
What can people do about it right now?
It’s about putting yourself outside your comfort zone. In Madagascar, I got sick and lost about 25 pounds within a week because I contracted a water born parasite. But it’s one of the best experiences I had because I have this perspective of real issues that require simple solutions if we just take the time and invest in them. There’s a lot of these uncomfortable things. We need to experience them to keep learning and engaging and questioning our own core beliefs until we get to a place where we all have this one idea—this one ideology of taking care of each other.
One Planet Tours is revolutionizing tourism through a disruptive new initiative called integrative travel. Stay tuned for our next blog post to learn more about who we are and what we are doing. In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook.