If you take the time to read just one piece of writing on our website, make it this one. We discuss tourism in general: why it's great, why it's not, and how we at Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is bridge the two.
Why do we care about visiting places that are foreign to us?
Travel is unlike other services in that the service has a personal effect on not only the customer but also the service provider.
Money from guests puts a measured value on something that is typically regarded as priceless: culture. This is where tourism walks a precarious line between being enriching and destructive, as it is a judgment on the value of another person’s culture, which makes the service provided inherently deeply personal for the host. We need to be cognizant and careful with how we use our money and wield this power.
benefits of travel / broadening our horizons
The fact is that spending time abroad, whether for a short trip or to live indefinitely, carries with it many important psychological benefits that stay with us for the rest of our lives. The most basic benefit is probably so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said, but we will anyway: experiencing other cultures is fun, fascinating, and fosters cross-cultural understanding and empathy.
Going deeper, the presence of regular daily cues makes behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes nearly automatic; disconnecting oneself from those cues is what allows us to more easily relax, break unwanted habits, think differently and therefore have more space for open-mindedness (6)! This shift in mentality can be taken advantage of anywhere apart from the location of those cues, however, the more different the environment, the better! Why? Living in and adapting to a foreign culture takes us one step further than habit-deformation and open-mindedness, in that the experience can facilitate increases in creative thinking and problem solving abilities (4). This fact reminds me of the term ‘broaden your horizons’, and provides me with greater understanding of where the phrase originated from.
Finally, above a threshold of $75,000 annual income in the US, further increases in income do not increase emotional well-being, aka happiness (1). If you are fortunate enough to have a discretionary income, the hedonic benefits from purchasing an experience have been shown to increase long-term happiness, whereas material purchases tend to cause a short-term spike in happiness followed by a decrease in satisfaction with the product over time (2). So, if you want to become more relaxed, more empathetic, de-habituated, increase problem solving and creative thinking abilities, and become happier … we recommend spending some time in a foreign place!
Host Community Impacts
Now we know that tourism carries with it many positive outcomes for the visitor, but are those benefits reciprocated in how we see tourism affecting host communities? We have always heard that tourism is inherently beneficial because it provides an influx of capital to the destination. Simple, right? Well … not exactly. Here’s a brief overview of what we will continue to parse through in future blogs. Generally, tourism affects a destination in four ways: economically, politically, socio-culturally, and environmentally.
Tourism-based spending typically is not evenly dispersed throughout the host population. Instead, it often has the disappointing effect of increasing wealth stratification. How can that be? Tourism hotspots are particularly susceptible to fluctuations in popularity. The increase in tourism tends to move local jobs from subsistence activities into the service sector, where the customers are foreign. Socioculturally this is already a problem, as it can create a kind of ‘cultural dependence’ in which the local community begins to cater its activities to outsiders' needs. It becomes an obvious economic problem when, as many tourism cycles tend to do, tourism decreases and leaves in its wake many people unemployed. Additionally, large portions of formerly used real estate sit idle and owned by few people. Finally, “wage labor introduced through tourism raises the opportunity costs of subsistence activities”, meaning that it becomes relatively more expensive to afford the same basic quality of life post-tourism increases for the local community (8).
Well, now I feel horrible and you might as well. I promise though, we are going somewhere productive with this, so hang tight during a couple more cringeworthy glimpses of these adverse impacts!!
During our experiences in Southern Italy, we have become increasingly aware of a barrier to financial and social stability for those whose jobs are centered around tourism called seasonality. Seasonality is the change in number of visitors, visitor expenditure, traffic, employment, and admissions to attractions that result in a dramatic change in workflow to the host community (3). This change can be affected by natural seasonality (the physical change in the weather and/or climate), or institutional seasonality (religion, social, cultural, ethnic and organizational factors and policies that affect travel frequency and volume). Seasonality impacts host communities in many different ways, such as overcrowding during the peak tour season which increases congestion in natural and built environments, sound and air pollution, and overall pressure on the ecosystem’s carrying capacity. That burden on the host community is even passed onto the visitor in the form of higher costs and fees for many services.
Our Business Model
We seek to mitigate the negative impacts of tourism and furthermore benefit the host community by directing spending from visitors in thoughtful and specific ways. We start by working to understand what problems the host community is facing and supporting the work of those within the community who are approaching solutions to those problems through their work. Three primary issues that are common in Southern Italian communities and our approach to supporting those who confront them include:
- The exodus from Southern Italy to the north or abroad by many, but primarily, educated youth. Therefore, we seek out businesses owned or operated by young people!
- A bi-product of this exodus is abandoned property, which leaves behind both houses and farmable land. We enjoy finding those who are reclaiming this land and reinserting its value back into the economy, and especially those who use it to cultivate characteristic crops that fortify traditions involving food culture.
- The remaining widespread power of the mafia largely through the extortion fee that, in some places, a majority of businesses pay. We work with local anti-mafia organizations to ensure that the money we spend goes to businesses that do not pay this fee, thus feeling confident that we are not inadvertently strengthening the mafia as we visit other places!
- The impact of highly seasonal tourism on seasonal employment and job instability (read more about that here)
We seek to mitigate the negative impacts of tourism by supporting small businesses such as bed and breakfasts or small hotels, choosing locally owned restaurants and food vendors, and engaging in the local arts community.
We run our guided visits during the low season as it provides benefits to both visitors and hosts, and we encourage those who choose to organize their trips through us as travel agents to also visit during the low season, if possible. Visitors reap the benefits as they frequently pay lower rates for hospitality during the low season, and they enjoy a more relaxed period due to less crowded facilities and warm but not sweltering weather! Hosts benefit from a more stabilized flow of capital and employment, and increased annual revenue. The periods during which we encourage you to enjoy a warm low-season visit to Southern Italy are from September through November and April through early June.
Additionally, we support businesses that provide services which allow us to experience the host community without burdening the environment. For example, engaging in physical activities such as hiking, windsurfing, kayaking, biking tours, mountain biking, paragliding, swimming, and sailing; when possible we take advantage of public transportation such as underground metros, trains, and ferries; we emphasize subjective and experiential tourism through hands-on learning and host-visitor interaction instead of objective and materialistic tourism. In other words, spending our money for experiences and not things!
One of those experiences that we focus on the most is FOOD! Food related activities function as a multifaceted lens that allows us to comprehensively experience culture. There is a basic set of vocabulary that we employ while discerning what we can learn about culture, history, traditions, but also food systems and even the environment, all from what we find on our plate (or in our glass) and how it got there! This vocabulary includes 0 km, Slow Food, Typical Food, Agritourism, Masseria, and Osteria. Stay tuned for a blog explaining the significance of these words and how they can enhance both cultural understanding and your ability to make decisions on where to eat and what to order.
We at Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is are studied and cognizant with how we, as visitors, use our money and wield this power. Through choosing to work with us you can rest easy knowing that your money will be spent at businesses that contribute to a sustainable and diverse economic future for the host community. So enjoy your trip!
And let your money do the talking!
1) Kahneman, D., and A. Deaton. "High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107.38 (2010): 16489-6493. Web.
2) Carter, Travis J., and Thomas Gilovich. "The relative relativity of material and experiential purchases." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 98.1 (2010): 146-59. Web.
3) Corluka, D. "Seasonality in Tourism." University Department of Professional Studies. Croatia, University Split. Academia.edu. Web. 8 Nov. 2016. <http://www.academia.edu/8670280/SEASONALITY_IN_TOURISM_causes_implications_and_strategies>.
4) Maddux, William W., Hajo Adam, and Adam D. Galinsky. "When in Rome ... Learn Why the Romans Do What They Do: How Multicultural Learning Experiences Facilitate Creativity." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 36.6 (2010): 731-41. Web.
5) Stronza, Amanda. "Anthropology of Tourism: Forging New Ground for Ecotourism and Other Alternatives." Annual Review of Anthropology 30.1 (2001): 261-83. Web.
7) Gardini, Maurizio. “Deficit di futuro se il sud si svuota”. http://confcooperative.it/LInformazione/Archivio/gardini-171i-giovani-che-lasciano-e-il-rischio-di-deficit-di-futuro187
8) Goulding, R., Horan, H., and Tozzi, L. "The role of sustainable tourism in reversing economic downturn and population decline in rural communities." Revista di turismo y patrimonio cultural 12.3 (2014) 549-563. Web.